Not long ago, in eastern Tennessee, I had the chance to record a conversation with Isabel Workman.
Isabel is an elementary school teacher who, along with her husband, adopted two children born to different mothers, but both dependent on opiates.
She and I had a poignant chat about one of the most lacerating byproducts of the opiate-addiction epidemic in America: the rise in infants born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, essentially in withdrawals from drugs, these days mostly from narcotics.
That in turn has overwhelmed the foster-children agencies. Many are being raised by their grandparents, while others are being adopted by couples like Isabel and her husband. Without these folks, the country would be in even more serious trouble.
All across America this is increasing, but Eastern Tennessee is one place where it’s felt with special intensity.
Our conversation lasts slightly less than 25 minutes (piano by my daughter).
Two weeks ago I had a heart attack at a high-rise hotel in Atlanta on the morning I was supposed to deliver a speech at a large conference on prescription-painkiller and heroin abuse.
Turned out one of my major arteries was completely blocked. I’ve written elsewhere about what happened that day and you can read it here.
I rebounded quickly because I was near help, and also because of an outpouring of prayers and good wishes sent from many you, which I greatly appreciated.
My wife and I were teary-eyed for days reading your posts and comments.
I went to visit my new cardiologist when I got home. I had never thought of what was happening during a heart attack.
“What you were feeling is the pain of the heart dying,” she told me.
This hit me much harder than anything else I’d heard from a doctor. I began to understand more deeply the enormous good fortune I’d had in being where I was when this happened. Another two or three hours without help, “and you’d have been in serious trouble,” she said.
I’ve spoken a lot about personal accountability in my talks about Dreamland. I believe it’s one of the lessons we ought to learn from our opiate-addiction epidemic: that as a culture, we almost demanded doctors cure our pain quickly and completely and we weren’t going to do much to help them do that – like eat better, exercise more, avoid processed foods. Opiate painkillers were quick, cheap and those were the tools doctors turned to.
So midway through writing the book, I stopped drinking sugary drinks; lots of junk food I’d already eliminated from my diet. I don’t buy food that’s advertised on TV. I’ve always walked a lot, but I added swimming. I had no clue that I had a blocked artery, or ought to believe I had one, because I thought I was doing a lot right. (My cardio rehab nurse said she thought the swimming had saved me, because through it my blood had found new ways of circulating around the blocked artery and used those when the attack came.)
Still, I’ve come to believe that our heroin/pill epidemic has a lot to say about who we are as Americans, how we do live and how we should live. I think I felt that a bit more deeply following my heart attack.
As part of that, I came across a discussion of the work of Viktor Frankl, a great philosopher and Holocaust survivor. It reads in part that what gave him the ability to survive Nazi concentration camps (four of them) was the search for meaning. That life is more than the pursuit of happiness; it’s the pursuit of meaning and with that comes fulfillment.
“We all said to each other in camp,” he writes, “that there could be no earthly happiness which could compensate for all we had suffered.” But it was not the hope of happiness that “gave us courage,” he writes. It was the “will to meaning” that looked to the future, not to the past. In Frankl’s existentialist view, we ourselves create that meaning, for ourselves, and not for others. … We must acknowledge the need to make sense of our lives and fill what Frankl called the “existential vacuum.” And we alone are responsible for writing better stories for ourselves.
That last sentence is the most important one.
Frankl’s work, I think, is hugely relevant amid this opiate-addiction epidemic.
I’m just beginning this new life – renewed approach to exercise, avoiding stress, and thinking of food differently than even I had. Feeling very fortunate to be alive and be around people who care – like many of you.
Hoping to continue writing a better story for myself, and wishing the same for you.
My grandmother, Paula Brown, was a gadfly in Des Moines, Iowa, fighting McDonald’s garish golden arches and trying to save old buildings. Because of her, my mother didn’t allow us to eat at McDonald’s. I didn’t have my first Big Mac until I was 12 and it didn’t do much for me. (I think I’ve had three or four – the sum total of all McDonald’s burgers of any kind I’ve had in my life.)
I spent a day last week in Des Moines, Iowa, where I spoke to a convention of county Medical Examiners.
It was my first time in the city since I was 14. We went on several cross-country car trips from California to Des Moines when I was a kid.
My grandfather, Ken Brown, owned an engineering company in town. He formed Brown Engineering in the Depression with my grandmother. The company still exists.
My grandmother also fought for many years, successfully in the end, to preserve what’s known as Gray’s Lake, south of downtown Des Moines, and keep it from commercial development and motor boats.
I suspect most folks in Des Moines are happy she did. She’s mentioned on a plaque at the lake. It’s now a park – a beautiful, quiet part of the city, with a bike path and footpath around it, rowboats and a small concession stand.
The city has clearly put some energy into preserving the lake and its surroundings, while making it useful to folks. People, one fellow told me, use Gray’s Lake relentlessly in Des Moines.
I’m proud that she did that. I’m betting most people would love something like Gray’s Lake – free of speedboats and Applebee’s – as part of their town.
Made me think of heritage. My grandfather fought in Patton’s Army during World War II. That’s on my mother’s side.
A few months ago, my daughter and I went to NYC and to Ellis Island and found records of the man I believe is my grandfather on my dad’s side. Lauraino Quinones is the spelling we found – a fellow from Spain, born in 1900, who took a boat from the Dominican Republic and landed on Ellis Island in 1922.
The real spelling of my grandfather’s name was Laureano, so I don’t know if this is his record, but everything else matches up.
He had a story out of a novel. He was born an illegitimate son in 1900 in a small Atlantic Coast village in Spain. His mother, whose husband had abandoned her years before, left the boy with uncles and fled to Argentina to escape the scandal and was never heard from again.
He grew up with no one, I suppose, and when he was 20 he joined the Spanish merchant marine, jumped ship in Puerto Rico, cut sugar cane for two years, and then in about 1922 or so, made his way to NYC, and eventually to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where in due course he met my grandmother, Elena Matracino, from a large family of Italian immigrants.
He worked in a brewery and she in a sewing factory. They both died before I was born.
But I love those stories – I’m connected to Italian and Spanish peasants, Oklahoma farmers, somewhere in there we’re supposed to be related to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and there is, I’m told, some Cherokee Indian as well.
All of that got mixed and mashed and, as it should, was turned into something else, new in America.
Among the healthiest things you learn as a journalist is that the world is a hazy, cloudy place, rarely clear, not often black and white, where two opposites may be true at the same time, and that as things change all the time you need to move with them as they roil.
In my experience, these mass shootings teach us this over and over.
The latest wrinkle in the nauseating Orlando massacre, reported in the LA Times, is that the killer spent the previous year drinking at the gay bar he shot up, so much so that he was recognized by people he was shooting at that night. He also spent time on a gay chat app.
All this adds more nuance – predictable in all these cases as they unfold and more is known.
I think the idea that this guy may have been a closeted gay man seems to make sense; that he hated that he was gay, was violent because he hated that he was; that the shooting was in anger for what he was, venting on the people who provoked his attraction.
After all, what truly straight man goes regularly to drink alone at a gay bar? He’d been doing it for more than a year. What straight man also spends time on a gay chat app?
In that light, this Islamic thing may be as much of a cloak as anything else, a way of finding some kind of larger romantic rationale for what he was in the process of doing.
Unclear to me that he was much of a clear thinker, but that’s self-evident.
(Note: Several days after I posted this, information surfaced that Mateen may have had as many as two gay affairs and that one with a Puerto Rican man may have resulted in him being HIV+.)
I mention all this because it falls in line with other cases I’ve covered as a reporter.
I’m very happy to ascribe fanatical religious/political/terrorist motives. But as a reporter, I’ve also covered seven mass murders (Stockton, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown among them) and in each case I was one of the journalists assigned to find out as much as possible about the suspect.
In each case, I came to have a very nuanced, though at the same time quite cloudy, view of the way the person thought or appears to have thought before he died. Because in the end, that’s the truth of the matter. It lies usually quite a way from how things appeared on first blush.
In Stockton (1989, the first of these mass shootings), we thought the shooter must have harbored great hatred for Asians, as the elementary school he fired on was largely SE Asian. In time, I grew to believe that he may have had some cloudy hateful ideas about Asians, but that was the most you could probably say. In fact, he was probably incapable of holding a clear thought of any kind – this from all I learned about his life up to then, and then his motel room where he spent his last night (with little green plastic soldiers deployed all over the room and a shirt on which he had written, “Death to the Great Satin” sic).
If anyone can tell me the clear thoughts that the shooters in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown had, I’d be very interested to hear. To me, they were all lost boys, murky in thinking, crazy, festering and unbalanced. Hence, finding a political meaning behind their actions was very difficult. We at first thought the Tucson shooter was a Tea Party member because he shot a Democratic congresswoman. Now, I can say with conviction that he was another boy out of his mind, lost, unfriended, scary to many, apolitical, and left by his parent to dangle on his own in the nether-reaches of virtual games.
This Orlando killer may have had some vague ideas of doing something for Allah and the Islamic state or (I now hear maybe) Hezbollah – I’m very willing to buy that. That’s who fanaticism wraps in its warm cloak – the lost, the embittered, the unbalanced. But the first information you get in these cases needs always to be balanced and blended with info, usually clearer, that comes later. So the stuff about his hanging out in Pulse for a year offers insight that we ought not ignore.
I can say that he does not seem like the Boston bombers, or the San Bernardino couple – all of whom were very focused, confirmed and dedicated Islamic terrorists, though perhaps technically solitary actors.
Those folks had a lot in common with Stavrogin, of Dostoevsky’s The Devils. Omar Mateen did not – at least that’s how it seems to me at this point.
Seems to me that his call to the cops about ISIS as he was shooting up the club was a way of very loudly saying, “…and just so’s you know, I’m NOT gay!”
What better way to say that than to invoke the world’s most notorious homophobes?
Then again, I’m always ready to let new facts change my mind.
In Chillicothe, Ohio, the way I understand it, school janitors are heroes.
Many kids are growing up in families of addicts and have no place to go, their home studded with neglect and jagged edges; so they hang around after school. There, janitors have befriended them, bringing them food, giving them a sober adult to talk to and a calm place to hang out.
My family and I spent Thursday in Chillicothe, a southern Ohio town (pop. 21,000) bedeviled, as so many are, by the opiate-addiction epidemic.
I spoke all day long – a radio interview at 6:30 am, meetings with three groups through the day, and a 7 pm public talk at the Majestic Theater, the oldest (1853), continuously operated theater in America. Yet by the end I wasn’t exhausted; I was instead exhilarated by the electric, intense response of people I met.
That’s how it’s been everywhere lately.
Writing Dreamland wasn’t arduous; it was engrossing. But it was also about a tough topic in which the worst of human behavior was on display. So I’m thrilled to see towns like Chillicothe using the book to come together, form alliances, leverage talent, talk about this problem in a way that hasn’t happened before, and do something hopeful.
Heroin seems to be having the opposite effect in Chillicothe that it has on users. If heroin isolates addicts into self-absorption and hyper-consumption, the drug also seems to be bringing people together to fight against it. I see this elsewhere as well and that’s encouraging. I know the problem is big. A new sporting-goods store delayed its opening in Chillicothe for months, I’m told, because it couldn’t find enough workers that could pass a drug test.
I wish I had a better answer to those who asked what to do about families where drug addiction is now generational, where the grandparents on down are using, where great-grandparents are raising their grandchildren’s kids. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, the day before in Louisville, told me that his state is on the verge of losing an entire generation, swallowed up in a morass of dependence, unemployment and now opiates. Kentucky has more able-bodied, working-age people who aren’t working than those who are, he said. That feels scary.
Heroin, it seems, is the final nausea to afflict small towns and rural communities already crushed by the farm crisis, downsizing, outsourcing, the loss of local retail, depopulation, and more. It seems that heroin has pushed many places to a life-or-death moment.
Knowing that, though, I also can’t help but recognize the energy I’ve been encountering in the people I meet.
In manufacturing, as I understand it, innovation happens through immersion in the work, people knowing the production process so well that together they find new, small, better ways to improve on how to make something.
Fighting heroin, I believe, is the same. When people come together, work together, knowing their community and its problems, when they leverage their talents and energies, the solutions specific to that place will emerge. I believe that.
And just as manufacturing processes improve incrementally, in small steps, so this problem has no sexy silver bullet, I suspect, but will be best fought with a combination of tiny efforts, many partial solutions, none of which is perfect, but together amount to something powerful. That’s good. Haven’t we had enough, after all, of the one sexy solution to solve all our problems: Didn’t `one pill for all people and every kind of pain’ do enough damage?
While I was writing Dreamland, people seemed to work in isolation, cut off from each other. Parents of addicts seemed hidden, silent. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen. People have now started talking about this issue, forming new alliances, comparing notes.
In Chillicothe, we stayed in the Carlisle, a beautiful brick building, restored after many years empty due to a fire. A hospital group decided to move into downtown and refurbish the building, believing apparently that it served the community best by being part of the revival of its core. The Majestic Theater will soon get a renovation. Luckily, the town never tore down its old beautiful brick buildings, which are being repurposed. New retail businesses are opening downtown. A t-shirt shop sells shirts of companies that have left town. My daughter now has a shirt proclaiming “Chillicothe, Ohio.” So the town seems to be rebounding, even as it battles this debilitating scourge. Maybe that’s the story – complicated, and not easily or neatly told.
I want to thank the people of Chillicothe for so hospitably welcoming my family and me. Thanks to Hudson Ward, at the Carlisle.
Thanks especially to Nick Tepe, the county’s head librarian, for organizing folks to bring us to town. Librarians ought to be playing exactly this kind of role in communities, and Ross County, Ohio seems to be blessed with a talented one.
Next, I’m heading to Knoxville, for the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference. And from there to Springfield, IL to speak to a conference of that state’s rural hospitals.
Meanwhile, Chillicothe had an annual street fair going while we were there, known as The Feast:
The last few days have been tumultuous for my family and me – and filled with strong emotions.
But I wanted to say how much I appreciated all those who wrote in, via various media, with kind words, words of support and encouragement. Tens of thousands read the blogpost below. Thousands of people shared the post below on Facebook. Hundreds more tweeted it. I received many e
mails, and (now that my WordPress comments section is fixed) comments on my blog. Many folks wrote in on the 60 Minutes website and the show’s Facebook page to object.
It means so much that you would do that. Thank you!
“People can see the truth,” said one editor and friend. I think that’s probably right.
Journalists and writers sent me notes with their own tales of how 60 Minutes and other shows had taken their stories/books/articles/reports and redone them without giving credit.
“This has been going on for years,” said one.
Maybe, but that doesn’t make it right. I hope writers/reporters will speak up when this happens in the future.
I hope my public objection, calling them out, means that a show like 60 Minutes will think twice before it appropriates the work of others without giving them credit. Television in particular seems afflicted with the weakness for taking the stories of others.
To those who would do that, I say, fine. Just give credit. It’s common decency. Show the work the real reporters did. Show respect. Don’t pretend, as 60 Minutes did so brazenly, that you’re blazing some new trail.
All that show had to do was mention my name, my work, my book, and that I did indeed help them.
That seems unlikely now, given the comments of the show’s spokesman. Let me say for the record: I spoke up not to promote my book. I spoke up because I had to defend my work. Because if I didn’t defend my work, no one else would. 60 Minutes was profiting from my work. I spoke up because this was work that 60 Minutes had not done by themselves. I had and I did it when almost no one in the media cared about this issue; early on, some questioned my judgment for even getting into the topic. Who cares about heroin addiction?
I spoke up because we’re in a new world, where if you want to do good journalism you almost have to go independent. And if independent journalists are routinely, and with impunity, scavenged by predators without the interest or energy for doing the work themselves, then we are doomed.
I spoke up because 60 Minutes, while taking what I’d taught them in phone conversations and in Dreamland, displayed no interest in advancing the story, taking it new places, teasing out new angles. None of that. Just the “Cliff Notes,” as one retired cop told me, to my book.
After 30 years in this business, three books and more articles than I can count, I’m accustomed to seeing stories that I scooped get picked up by other news outlets. I barely flinch. It’s part of the job. It’s even happened with many news outlets since Dreamland appeared. Everyone seems to be talking about the heroin epidemic in the last six months. Time Magazine, New York Times, Sports Illustrated. That’s great, and one of the reasons I wrote the book.
I called out 60 Minutes because it was such an egregious violation.
They could have gone anywhere in the country and done this story. You’d have to ask them why they didn’t. I suspect they went to the place I told them to go (on the phone and in an email) and where a major part of Dreamland was set – Columbus, Ohio – because it was cheaper to do it that way, with the roadmap I provided them.
The night of the show, I was proud of the parents who were interviewed, several of whom I know. They spoke for millions of mothers and fathers like them across the country who have suffered this nightmare of watching their kids transformed into something like zombies under the influence of pills and now heroin. They pushed along this awakening regarding the opiate epidemic that has been gaining strength across the country in the last six months.
But I also found myself dumbfounded, then outraged as I watched, remembering all the work I’d put in on this topic, the time I spent away from my wife and daughter – all of which 60 Minutes just appropriated as if it belonged to them. After it was over, I apologized to my daughter for my outbursts during the show.
His book influenced me enormously. We learn to write by writing, but if there’s one book to read on writing in English, it’s his. I read it probably eight times, though I’ve lost count. Some parts of it, more than that.
His approach to writing is the correct one – that writing involves rewriting and more rewriting, each time with an eye to cutting words that don’t need to be there.
That through rewriting we achieve greater clarity, and come to know what we think.
He didn’t mean that all sentences should be short. Rather, that all sentences contain only words that are necessary. Same goes for sentences in a paragraph and paragraphs in a text.
He also said that if you pare down your prose to only what’s necessary and do this over and over, through a lifetime, you develop your own voice. That idea hit me as strange at first, but I know now that he was right.
His point, too, that writing is not to be done when you have inspiration, but treated as a job, something you get up and do every day – that was a revelation to me, as well. The anecdote with which he opens the book, about speaking on a writing panel with a doctor, is fabulous.
On Writing Well went through many editions, but the core of it – the first six or so chapters – remains always clear and relevant.
His essay on Clutter in language is probably more on point today than ever.
I wrote to him twice – once after my first book came out and the second time after we published the first Tell Your True Tale: East Los Angeles volume. Each time, he was kind enough to write back.
A good guy who changed English – by making those who write it do it more clearly.
I’m in Little Rock for the Arkansas Literary Festival, a very nice book festival held downtown.
So here’s what happened yesterday. Flew in, met my fellow panelists, learned that Southwest lost my bag, went to the hotel, took a quick nap, went to a festival reception, met someone with an opiate addict in the family (the family member is a woman in her 60s or so).
Little Rock is no different from every other part of the country I’ve visited recently.
Researching our national addiction to pain pills and heroin to write my book, Dreamland, I’ve been struck by the normalcy of addiction nowadays. Everywhere, strike up a conversation, you find someone with a family member or friend or co-worker addicted to opiates.
It’s far more prevalent than crack use was, I believe, and certainly infinitely more deadly.
I remember starting the research, flying to Dallas a couple years ago. On the plane was an elderly couple from rural Oklahoma. We got to talking and before long, they were telling me of their oldest son, addicted to OxyContin.
Not long after that, in a tavern on New Year’s Day in Covington, KY, I met a family, celebrating a young girl’s birthday. Before long, we’re talking about two people in that extended family dead from heroin overdoses.
There are many reasons why this is so.
First: the massive over-prescribing of pain pills nationwide. We often debate whether supply or demand drives drug plagues. This one is supply driven. Pain pills eventually lead to heroin addiction – as the pills are molecularly similar to heroin and much cheaper; in some areas, like those serviced by the Xalisco Boys I write about in Dreamland, heroin is easier and more convenient to obtain the pills.
But this is also driven by silence. There’s no violence to fuel public ire. Meanwhile, though, parents are loathe to talk about their children’s addiction. When they die, they camouflage it in some palatable cause of death. Some parents are going public. But far too few given the huge numbers.
The result is silence, and stories you never hear until you’re sitting next to someone on a plane, or chatting with them at a cocktail party.
When neck-deep in writing a book, I’m never sure if it’s any good. Too much time spent laboring over every phrase, whether one clause should be separated by a comma or a semicolon, which adjective best describes a person’s mood – on top of all the facts that, like cats, need to be corralled and herded in one direction or another.
And new facts you learn every day that may change everything.
Then there’s the rewriting – which is what writing is all about.
So I’m thrilled to hear reaction to the book – that people couldn’t put it down. Love hearing that, I have to say.
I’ve had great appearances at the LA Times Bookfest and at Vroman’s, with more to come at Powell’s Books in Portland, Elliott Bay Town Hall in Seattle and Bookstore West Portal in San Francisco, not to mention the Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock, where I’m heading as I write.
Amazon.com chose Dreamland one of its Best Books of the month, alongside books by Toni Morrison, TC Boyle and others. That was nice of them.
The NY Times ran a column of mine on the front page of its Sunday Review opinion page. Nice of them, as well.
KPCC in LA aired an interview i did on their show, Take Two, and CSPAN did the same with an interview at the Bookfest, then covered the LA Times Bookfest panel I was on with some terrific nonfiction crime authors – Ruben Castaneda, Barry Siegel, and Deanne Stillman, and Tom Zoellner doing a bang-up job moderating.
All in all, an exhausting but fulfilling first few days to a book’s life.
Thanks to all who’ve bought the book, and especially to those who’ve written me about it with such feeling.
The new Tell Your True Tale; East Los Angeles book is out, the product of a workshop I did with a great group of eight new writers.
The stories are again fantastic — about Albert Einstein in East L.A., a Czech “almost blind” boy growing up in a Communist boarding home, a young man going to Tijuana to help a deported friend return, a woman on her deathbed remembering the last time she saw her kids, and a girl on her way to Mexico, a child bride.
After many many months of traveling the country, reporting, interviewing, of writing and rewriting and more rewriting, I just turned in the manuscript to my book about the country’s epidemic of pill and heroin abuse.
It’s called DREAMLAND: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.
Comes out in April, Bloomsbury Press.
I’m still walking around in a daze.
Writing a book is a process of discovery, I found again to my delight.
This is my third book. It started out very differently than it ended up.
Quite unexpectedly, it became a tale about the country, where we are as America and Americans, about rural America, the Rust Belt and the country’s nicest suburbs, about what excess will do, and the value of community. About what we lose when we undermine that which gives us community.
None of that should have surprised me, because unlike previous drug scourges this one has permeated virtually the entire country – or at least all of white America.
The story’s about drug marketing, and about our belief that we are entitled to feel no pain.
It’s also about Mexico, and the Mexican town that has devised a system for selling heroin like pizza. Making heroin convenient, and cheap and potent, as well.
On one level, the story’s about Mexican drug trafficking, but it’s probably as much about the impulse behind immigration, and the Mexican village, and envy and desire.
I didn’t start out thinking that parents of addicted kids would be part of the mix. But if you keep your mind open, new directions present themselves. So they are now. I love this about journalism.
I belong now to a Facebook site called The Addict’s Mom, where parents write in daily about their addicted kids. So many have died recently. So many people are wrapped up in addiction or the addiction of their children.
It’s amazing that it’s so quiet, because this is happening everywhere.
Given how hard this dope is to kick, it’s going to be with us for a long long time.
Hey all — An invite to the presentation of a book that grew out a tremendously successful series of nonfiction writing workshops I gave to new writers at East L.A. Public Library.
The presentation of TELL YOUR TRUE TALE: East Los Angeles takes place this Saturday (April 26) at 2:30 pm, at the library, which is located at 4837 E 3rd St, (323-264-0155).
The volume is stunning for the mosaic of East L.A. it presents, as well as the variety and quality of the stories: A vet returning home from Vietnam; a janitor in Houston trying to find her children in Mexico; of braceros finding their way north and back home again; a man learning confidence as he woos a woman; a bus rider in Los Angeles; a mariachi singing for a heartbroken family on Christmas Eve.
All by folks who’d never published before: Andrew Ramirez, Celia Viramontes, Olivia Segura, Manuel Chaidez, Jacqueline Gonzalez, Joanne Mestaz, and Diego Renteria.
I call my workshops TELL YOUR TRUE TALE. They attempt to excavate new stories from unheard communities as they help new writers over the intimidating humps that keep them from realizing their writing dreams, and push them to start thinking like writers — all by mining the stories in their lives or those of people close to them.
Hope you all can make the presentation this Saturday, and pass along the word to others who might be interested.
I’m just back from Mexico where I spent a few days in the town of Escuinapa.
Escuinapa is in Sinaloa – a state with a heavy burden caused by the drug war and the fearsome cartel that bears the state’s name.
Here’s a video I made with an alternative view of the area. (I’m loving working video for another kind of storytelling, though clearly I’m still a technical babe in arms. Feel free to subscribe to my video channel, True Tales Video.)
I spoke there at a tourism conclave.
It was great to return to Mexico these last few days. I hope to go back a lot more now that I’m no longer with the LA Times.
I was also in Mazatlan, also in Sinaloa, and a couple hours away. Mazatlan is my favorite Mexican resort town, largely because along with spectacular beaches, there’s actually a city with real life going on. Its Old Town is one of the nicest in all of Mexico, and it’s hard to beat the pulmonias (golf cart taxis) as a mode of transportation.
More from there later.
But I was very happy to help present the new book by my friend, Arturo Santamaria, the sociologist who introduced me to the topic of beauty queens in Mazatlan.
De Carnaval, Reinas y Narc0 is about how beauty queens, beauty contests and drug trafficking all work together in Mazatlan and in Sinaloa.