Time to rethink pledging allegiance to a flag  

Time to rethink pledging allegiance to a flag  

Pledging allegiance to a flag seems so absurd. And yet I do it when the occasion arises.

I’ve thought about sitting, but was afraid people would think I was making a political statement that had more to do with who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than it being the fact that I don’t see the point in pledging allegiance to the flag.

Questioning the need to pledge allegiance to a flag. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This past summer I attended a few service club meetings as a guest speaker to talk about my Tahoe hiking book. Reciting the pledge of allegiance is a normal way to open these meetings. I did what I’ve done for a few years, and that is to be silent during the “under god” part because of my religious beliefs. The god part wasn’t even in the original pledge; that was added in 1954 at the direction of President Dwight Eisenhower.

The pledge originated in September 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus Day. That’s a bit ironic considering so many places are getting rid of Columbus Day and instituting Indigenous People’s Day. It was first published in a magazine for schools to promote nationalism to youths. It was in 1942 that the federal government recognized the salute.

Not reciting the pledge, kneeling during the national anthem, a fist in the air – everyone has their own reason for their actions. It doesn’t make them any less patriotic than those who participate in a more conforming manner. It might make them more patriotic because they are taking a stand, so to speak, for their beliefs.

That is one of the beautiful things about the United States of America – we get to protest, we can burn the flag, we can disagree with politicians and the power structure, we aren’t going to be thrown in jail for our opinions.

To me pledging allegiance to the flag is tantamount to pledging allegiance to the government. I can’t do that – no matter the party. (I don’t belong to any political party.) I love the United States. I’m not about to give up my citizenship. I am still against pledging allegiance to a flag.

With this being Veterans Day, I’m sure some will see this missive as blasphemy. But the truth is this is when the flag should be revered; flown with pride for those who have served in our armed forces.

Our flag, as probably all are, is a symbol of many things. It is time for me to stop going through the motions and be true to my beliefs. I would gladly pledge allegiance to the Constitution, just not the flag. The two represent very different things to me. After all, when politicians take an oath of office it is to protect the U.S. Constitution — not the flag — and to uphold laws at lower levels of government. (I don’t understand swearing on a Bible, nor would I ever. Why not place one’s hand on a copy of the Constitution?)

If it’s so important to open a meeting with a pledge, let it be to the Constitution. Now that’s a movement I could get behind. Or better yet, completely abandon this silly, useless ritual of pledging to anything at the beginning of all meetings.

Resilience of Paradise fire victims evident a year later

Resilience of Paradise fire victims evident a year later

Cleo Reed sifts through the remains of her home in December 2018. (Image: Jann Reed)

It took 17 days to fully contain what became the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. This was the Camp Fire that started Nov. 8, 2018. It decimated most of Paradise and forever changed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

My mother was one of those people. The home she was living in in Paradise was reduced to ash. She escaped with her life (more than 80 people died), her dog and a few mementos.

Paradise at the time had a population of about 27,000 people. The fire wiped out 14,000 residences.

Save-Mart grocery story survived the fire. It was freshened up and still has a Paradise Strong poster in the window. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

With the fires burning elsewhere in California this fall, along with the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire just days away, it is an emotional time for so many.

I can’t begin to understand what it was like for my mom driving during the day with the sky so dark it was more like night. That’s not to say we haven’t talked, that I haven’t visited her. It’s just that with something like this one would have to walk in those moccasins, as she would say, to truly understand. It’s an understanding she wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Nearly a year after the fire plenty of properties are still a mess. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mom had been evacuated from Paradise in years past, only to return. She, like so many others, assumed they would return again to an unscathed home.

Not this time.

She says she had time to grab more things. But did she really? Would the roads have been worse? Might something have happened?

Several charred vehicles remain on the side of roads nearly a year later. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

To say what people lose in a fire is just things is true. But they are that person’s things. And some things can’t be replaced. Shopping isn’t fun anymore for her. It’s having to replace yet something else she lost. It’s as simple as being with her a month ago and she didn’t have an ice cream scoop. We got her one. It’s as complex as things of my deceased dad’s being gone forever.

The performing arts center across the street from my mom’s residence survived intact. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Several ceramic and metal items were salvageable from my mom’s place. While it’s something, it’s not much. She has a couple “fire” pieces in her new kitchen. They are up high, almost out of sight. Yet, depending on how one looks at them, they are also prominent in the kitchen. It all depends on one’s perspective.

Fortunately, I have a sister in Chico and one in Redding – both who have been there to help with the minutia, both who I continue to thank for doing so much for our mom. Mom immediately stayed at my sister’s in Chico. Then when it was confirmed her place burned, it was time to think where to go next. She went to Redding, to a senior facility. At 85 she realized she was too young in mind and physical ability to be there, along with some other reasons. Now she is in Chico – close to her friends from Paradise, in a town where she has more connections.

Cleo Reed looks over some of the items recovered after the fire. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When I was visiting her in October we went to Paradise. This was my first time since the fire. I had seen plenty of pictures in the news and from family. I was prepared for the worst, but what I saw was resilience. That is the word that came to mind. It seems so appropriate that Sierra Nevada Brewing Company created a beer called Resilience as a way to make money for Paradise fire relief. Resilience is what I saw in the businesses that have reopened, in the people who are moving back, the new construction.

All the patients and staff made it out of the hospital, but the future of the facility is unknown. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This isn’t to say the town is back. It’s not. The water isn’t drinkable because many of the pipes were plastic and those toxins then got into the aquifer, tainting the wells. Other infrastructure needs are a concern. The hospital looks intact, but is cordoned off with a chain link fence. Its future still undetermined.

While there is still so much to be done to make Paradise whole again, the people are also in need of becoming whole again. Time will help. So will talking. So will understanding that a tragedy like this is not something someone just gets over. It will forever be with them; it has forever changed them. Their resilience, though, is something to admire and learn from.

Questioning whether Day of the Dead should be a tourist spectacle

Questioning whether Day of the Dead should be a tourist spectacle

Several girls and women compete Nov. 1 in Todos Santos for best catrina. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Even though Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos) has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years, it became a mainstream event in large part because of Hollywood.

This is an Aztec tradition rooted in what is now Mexico.

When the Spanish conquered Mexico they brought Catholicism to the country and all of its rituals. The Spanish didn’t buy into all the hoopla of the Aztecs, as they believed in their own traditions. In the Catholic world, Nov. 1 is All Saints Day and Nov. 2 is All Souls Day. This is why Day of the Dead celebrations are conducted on these two days.

In many ways Day of the Dead is a blending of Aztec and Spanish beliefs. This is appropriate as so many of the people in Mexico are mixed race.

Noel Morales, owner of El Refugio in Todos Santos, talks Nov. 2 about the history of Day of the Dead. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The living create multi-tiered altars to the dead as a way to welcome them back. Food – often the deceased’s favorites – are part of the spread, along with candles to light the way. Salt is a purifier as well as a symbol of tears, while water is essential to life. Marigolds are significant because they can be used for medicinal purposes, plus their aroma is said to attract the dead.

Some altars are more elaborate than others. The tiers are said to represent the stairway to heaven. At the top is usually a picture of the dead.

Mexico City had never had a Day of the Dead parade until one was part of the 2015 James Bond movie “Spectre.” Mexico’s largest city had its first real Day of the Dead parade the following year. Then in 2017 the movie “Coco” came out. This film is a wonderful way to understand what Day of the Dead is all about.

Those two movies have turned Day of the Dead from a family and community ritual into a tourist event.

An altar at the Todos Santos plaza created solely for the Nov. 1 festivities. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Noel Morales, owner of El Refugio restaurant in Todos Santos, on Nov. 2 gave a free talk about the history of Day of the Dead.

“The most important thing for Mexicans is family,” Morales said.

Honoring those who have died keeps that love alive.

When asked about the catrinas, which are now a symbol of Day of the Dead, Morales said, “Catrinas are bullshit. La Catrina is a joke.”

In 1873, Jose Guadalupe Posada created what is now called catrina. It was Diego Rivera who in 1948 gave this skeleton lady the name she has today. Catrina is slang for a rich, elegant, well-dressed woman. There was a time when dressing as a catrina was a way to mock rich Mexicans who wanted to be more European.

It is this symbol of wealth that bothers Morales because “90 percent of Mexican people are poor.”

On Nov. 1, Day of the Dead in Todos Santos was celebrated with traditional dances by young and old at the theater at the plaza. A contest for the best looking catrina was part of the event, with a handful of adults and children participating. Surrounding the plaza were a few elaborate altars for the dead, and an array of food booths.

For a day meant to be about family, the living and the dead, it seems like Day of the Dead celebrations are turning into a party for the masses who have no bond or real understanding of what is going on. What was so personal seems to now be so public. It’s almost like Day of the Dead festivals are making a mockery of a sacred ritual. This should not be a tourist event.

Giants manager a winner no matter the record

Giants manager a winner no matter the record

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy will retire after the Sept. 29 game. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

What a season it has been for the San Francisco Giants. No matter what happens on the field today for the last game of 2019, they will finish the season with a losing record. That, though, isn’t what is so significant. To me, it’s that manager Bruce Bochy will be at the helm for his final game.

The Giants’ skipper before the start of the season said this would be his last. He has spent 13 years managing the orange and black, steering the team to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Only five managers have more titles to their credit.

Prior to joining the Giants in 2007, Bochy managed the San Diego Padres from 1995-2006. With the Padres, he reached the World Series in 1998.

As a manager, he has more than 2,000 wins; a milestone that he reached earlier this month. Only 10 other Major League Baseball managers have accomplished this feat. Those 10 are all in the Hall of Fame. Most everyone speculates Bochy is headed for Cooperstown as well.

Bruce Bochy is expected to end his career in the Hall of Fame. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In August, Bochy managed his 4,000 game. He is one of eight to do so.

At the Sept. 27 game, my last time to see Bochy in a Giants uniform in person, he was a man of few words as he introduced outfielder Kevin Pillar. This was a night to honor the player receiving the Willie Mac Award. Named for Willie McCovey, the Giants Hall-of-Famer who died in October 2018, it is a tradition that started in 1980. The award honors the most inspirational player for the season.

Pillar has earned the moniker “Superman” for his heroics in center field, most notably his diving catches. He’s pretty good at going face first into the base pads, as well.

In a Giants season that goes down as a record for the number of players used – 64 – it says something that Pillar hasn’t been part of the revolving door. It also says a lot that his teammates and others in his lone season as at Giant recognized him beyond his abilities at the plate and in the field.

It will be weird walking into Oracle Park next season knowing Bochy won’t be in the dugout. I wonder who else won’t be. It’s been a great ride these last 13 years with Bochy in charge.

A simple and heartfelt thank you and good luck to you Boch.

Birthdays are a time to celebrate and reflect

Birthdays are a time to celebrate and reflect

Birthdays, to me, are an opportunity to take stock of the past year and make plans for the next.

It’s not the same as making resolutions at the New Year, despite this being my personal new year. The assessments are not something I pronounce to the world. It’s an internal reflection, taking time to note what has happened in the last 365 days. It’s personal – not delving into the news cycle or even others except how they might have directly affected me. It’s not about dwelling on the bad or basking in the good; it’s more of an acknowledgment.

Turning 1 in 1966.

So often as we are leading our daily lives we don’t pause. We move through the moment, not always recognizing the significance. Sometimes it takes time to understand the impact of certain things. It could be as simple as saying I want to do a little more of that or a little less of this. Mostly, though, it’s about assessing the past more than planning for the next year.

I write this on the eve of my 54th birthday as I sit waiting for my Jeep to get a new radiator and four new tires. Not the most exciting birthday gift to myself. This 17-year-old Wrangler needs to get me down to Baja next month and back to the U.S. next year.

Birthdays have always been fun. My parents made them special for me and my three sisters. We could have whatever we wanted for our birthday dinner, including dessert. My dinners would vary – from fondue to my dad’s barbecued chicken to something else. Dessert was always the same – chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and homemade chocolate chip ice cream.

Last year I was in Todos Santos for my birthday, having arrived earlier in the month. I knew few people. I invited the neighbors over for dinner without telling them it was my birthday. It was perfect. Those four are friends of my sister’s; this gave us an opportunity to get to know each other better. We went the whole night without me ever saying it was my birthday; and still, it was so special.

I know I will be getting my cake this afternoon as my tennis friends have planned a party on the courts. On my birthday I will be dining on my favorite pizza at Skipolini’s in the Bay Area; a stop on the way to a book signing the following day. I really do love multiday birthday celebrations. It’s going to be a weekend of fun.


The incomplete streets of South Lake Tahoe

The incomplete streets of South Lake Tahoe

Workers pave one side of the street at a time. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Tahoe time – it’s something locals know all about. Usually it’s in reference to people arriving late and events not starting on time. It could also be a definition for the delayed implementation of infrastructure projects.

When the Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization, an arm of TRPA, rolled out its plan for the future for transportation a Lake Tahoe News story dated Nov. 4, 2011, said, “[TMPO s]taff is working on the premise of complete streets being the No. 1 policy goal.”

That same story said, “The three programs [the TMPO] is likely to pursue are: reducing employee trips via shuttles or flexible scheduling, real time traveler information via electronic signs, and parking management where entities may share asphalt.” It’s nearly eight years later and what accomplishments have occurred? Caltrans has some signs on highways that on occasion give travel times. Shuttles – none. Shared parking – nope.

And those complete streets? Well, depends where you look. The city of South Lake Tahoe with the aid of state and federal grants is making the 0.6-mile Sierra Boulevard a complete street, which includes curbs, gutters and sidewalks. When done it will also have bike lanes and better parking. This project has a price tag of more than $5 million. State and federal grants are paying the bulk of it because the city was able to demonstrate the extras beyond asphalt will help with erosion, and reduce greenhouse emissions and congestion.

The next complete street in the city limits could be Tahoe Keys Boulevard, where right-of-way is not an issue and utilities are already underground. Grant funding would be needed.

The streets in the Gardner Mountain area that are being torn apart and completely rebuilt right now are not being transformed into complete streets even though the road is being taken down to dirt. This is not a routine overlay project.

“That was the plan if we had the money,” former South Lake Tahoe Mayor/Councilman Tom Davis said of council policy being that when a street would be completely redone — taken down to dirt like what is happening in Gardner Mountain — that it would become a complete street with curb and gutters, not just pavement. The current mayor didn’t respond to questions.

Former City Manager Nancy Kerry said, “Yes, the goal was to make sure they were all complete streets. And there’s really no better time to do that than when they get it down to dirt. They will never have that opportunity again until the next time, which obviously could be 15-20 years, maybe longer.”

Roads in the Gardner Mountain area have been dirt much of summer. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Money. That’s the stumbling block when it comes to doing more than asphalt, according to current staff.

“Adding curb and gutter to a project would result in considerably more complication with funding and environmental permitting,” Stan Hill, with the city’s Public Works Department, explained. “The addition of new curbs and gutters on streets that don’t currently have curbs and gutters would most likely require construction of drainage inlets to collect the surface water from the streets, a conveyance system to route the stormwater runoff to a treatment facility and outfall, the stormwater treatment facility to treat the stormwater, and significant environmental permitting. The city’s (memorandum of understanding) with environmental agencies allows pavement replacement as a maintenance activity with no required environmental permitting. Adding curb and gutter to a project would result in considerably more complication with funding and environmental permitting.”

Hill, who is filling in for the department director while he is on vacation, went on to say, “There is discussion within the city’s General Plan stating, ‘the city shall seek to develop or upgrade all state highways, arterials, and collectors as complete streets that accommodate all travel modes.’ There are three defined collector rated streets within the Gardner Mountain area – 10th Street, 13th Street and most of Julie Lane. However, the current paving project in the Gardner Mountain area is a pavement maintenance project, not a complete streets project. Complete streets projects will require specific direction from the City Council and are much more complicated than pavement surface replacement work.”

Complete streets also require the right-of-way to put in the added infrastructure, especially sidewalks. If it’s not there, it means getting private property owners to bequeath the land or the city to buy it.

Still, the work being done on Gardner Mountain is a bit complicated and much more than a normal overlay.

Machines take out the old asphalt. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A machine pulverized the roads down to about 8 inches. The crushed road and subsoil were mixed together to create a base. Those affiliated with the project said this is a good strategy environmentally to not truck out all of the old stuff and to be able to reuse it. The dirt mixture was then compacted with heavy roller machines to create a substantive base.

This is the same approach that was taken with Al Tahoe Boulevard several years ago.

The benefit is the road should last longer than if only an overlay were used.

As has been pointed out at countless council meetings, a big problem with South Tahoe roads is that they were built on dirt with no base. That’s why the pulverization technique was used. Creating a base came the norm in the 1980s.

While the new asphalt in the Gardner Mountain looks pretty, it’s hard to know if drainage will be improved. City officials say even on a project like this one, known problems could be fixed by changing the slope of the road, carving out a roadside path or putting in a ditch for water. It’s not obvious any of those ideas have been implemented.

Not every street in Gardner Mountain will be done this season. The city’s approach is to replace the streets that are failing the worst and proceed from there. Also, there is a coordinated effort to work with the utility companies so roads are torn up once. Southwest Gas has already replaced the steel gas mains on the streets being worked on in 2019.

“Southwest Gas has not completed the gas main and service line replacements on the section of 13th Street that was not included in the 2019 Road Rehabilitation Project area. At some point following the future completion of the Southwest Gas work on 13th Street (west of Julie Lane), Public Works will schedule pavement reconstruction of the remaining section of 13th Street,” Hill said. No date was given when the rest of the 13th or others in the neighborhood will be done.

This means the lower part of 13th is now a skateboarder’s dream, while the upper part remains so bad it’s even jarring on a mountain bike.

A newly paved street with only the manhole cover needing to be secured. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

South Lake Tahoe has a haphazard approach to maintaining its roads. There is no dedicated fund for roads even though most people would say it’s a basic need for locals and tourists. In 2016, voters said no to raising the sales tax from 7.25 percent to 7.75 percent because it was to go to the General Fund and would not be dedicated for roads.

While nearly every council member (current and former) talks a good game about wanting to improve the dilapidated pavement, reality is another story. This fiscal year, which will come to a close on Sept. 30, the city budgeted $1.95 million for roads. The money came from excess reserves in the General Fund. That is not what one would call a reliable source of income. Another $362,000 came from the state SB1 gas tax.

The 2019-20 budget, which the City Council is slated to approve on Sept. 17, includes about $4.3 million for the street overlay program. At most, that will pay for 5 miles of road. The actual roads to be worked on won’t be decided until the budget is signed. It’s possible, though, with the Southwest Gas project on the books in the Tahoe Valley area for 2020, that the city will piggyback there when the road is torn up.

City officials say if complete streets were put in everywhere, repaving would come to a screeching halt because the cash would be gone. Privately, city officials say complete streets on all roads will never happen. The money isn’t likely to ever be there, especially with transient occupancy tax money (one of the three main revenue sources for the city) about to take a drastic hit because of the vacation home rental policy voters approved in November 2018. Roads and so much more will be even more neglected.

Sometimes I forget what my name is

Sometimes I forget what my name is

It’s rather embarrassing when I forget my name. It’s not that I entirely forget it. I sometimes hesitate. It’s like a long pause before I remember what to say.

Such are the hazards of going to a Spanish-speaking country and your name means what. Kae sounds like que.

When I was in South America in the 1990s I was asked in Spanish what my name is. I said Kae. They heard, Que? It was like an episode of Who’s on First. They asked, I answered – several times. Then I finally figured out what was going on and responded Kathryn. They must have thought I was pretty stupid to not know my name.

This episode led me to the decision to start off with going by Kathryn when I went to live in Mexico a year ago. I wanted one name for everyone to use no matter their primary language. This was fine, all was going well. People did ask if I go by anything shorter, like Kathy or Kate, and I explained the issue with being called Kae. We laughed. Kathryn it is.

I told friends back in Tahoe about this and they started calling me Que in emails. It got to where I was signing my name Que to certain people.

I’m Kathryn in Mexico and Kae in the United States. The trouble comes when the two overlap. When friends and family visited me in Todos Santos I would remind them to refer to me as Kathryn because most people didn’t now the Kae/que story and would have no idea who Kae was. The confusion has followed me north. I have a friend from Todos Santos who lives in Reno. She calls me Kathryn. When we were putting our name in at a restaurant I paused not knowing what name to use; she spoke up. I felt silly.

This whole author thing has been a bit confusing too as to whether I should be Kathryn or Kae. It’s Kathryn on the book, so I want people to remember that. When it comes to emailing people I’ve gone back and forth with Kae and Kathryn. I realize I’m the one confusing the situation. I’m starting to introduce myself as Kathryn at events. That’s what will be on future books. I was slow to realize my name is a business – or I want it to be.

It’s not that I haven’t used Kathryn before. It’s usually been in a professional setting – as a byline as a journalist, and now as an author. As a journalist I would always know if someone didn’t really know me because they would call me Kathryn instead of Kae.

This isn’t the first time I’ve changed my name, so to speak. When I was little I could not pronounce Kathryn and started calling myself KK. It stuck. I was known as KK all through high school; with some people still calling me that. The first day of school was horrible when the teacher would say Kathryn Reed. People always laughed. Kids are cruel. I wasn’t a Kathryn then unless I was in trouble at home. I explained to the teacher that I go by KK – double K, no periods.

As college approached, it seemed like KK needed to stay with childhood. That’s how Kae came to be. Lose a K and spell it in an nontraditional way. It worked.

All of this makes me think I should just go by Reed and lose all the first name confusion.


‘The Human Element’ proves climate change is happening now

‘The Human Element’ proves climate change is happening now

Words – written or verbal – don’t seem to persuade everyone about the real and dangerous consequences of climate change. Maybe images will.

The 2018 documentary “The Human Element” is gripping. Photographer James Balog successfully captures how humans are the fifth element after earth, air, water and fire that are affecting climate change.

This educational film was shown at the Crystal Bay Club in Nevada earlier this month, with proceeds benefitting environmental research and education at Lake Tahoe via the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

Balog’s still photos and videos are mesmerizing. The interviews with people who are being impacted by rising ocean levels on the East Coast, wildfires in the West, and the coal industry in the middle part of the United States put a personal touch on what oftentimes is a scientific discussion.

The film brings to the forefront how climate change is a human problem. It’s so hard to comprehend how people in 2019 can continue to believe we have nothing to do with the changing climate. The fact remains the climate is changing and we are all suffering from it today and it will only get worse with each year that goes by if we don’t collectively do more to curtail it. Waiting until it has a direct negative effect on your life is going to be too late.

It is time we realize all of our actions have consequences, and not all of them are good. There is too much irrefutable science and evidence to continue to say climate change isn’t happening. This movie clearly paints a bleak picture without being preachy.

I put climate change deniers in the same category as those in the Flat Earth Society. It’s like a mental health disorder.

The two places I currently call home are both noticeably impacted by climate change. In Lake Tahoe the snow line is dropping and more rain is falling from the sky than white stuff. In Baja California Sur, the ocean is warming, which helps create more devastating hurricanes. It would be hard to find anyplace in the world where the climate is not changing.

See the movie. It’s important.

Pin It on Pinterest