Applauding California’s decision to ban book bans

California is banning book bans—at least in schools.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 25 signed AB1078, which bans book bans in schools, prohibits censorship of instructional materials, and strengthens state law requiring schools to provide all students access to textbooks that teach about California’s diverse communities.

I read about this on the same day I learned about a teacher in South Carolina who was apprehensive about returning to the classroom after last year being reprimanded for teaching about racism in an AP English Language and Composition class.

She had her class read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, which is about what it means to be Black in the United States. Students said it made them not like being white. Um, there are a lot of reasons to be uncomfortable with being white based on what people have done and continue to do.

Learning should get people out of their comfort zone.

The problem in South Carolina, though, is the law says teachers can’t make students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.” Oh, for god’s sake, how does crap that even get into law?

The answer is simple. It’s about who we are electing to leadership positions. It starts with local elections—school boards, city council, board of supervisors and continues to the state legislature and finally Congress and the White House.

The California law also prohibits school boards from banning instructional materials or library books simply because they provide inclusive and diverse perspectives.

Gay children reading about heterosexuals doesn’t “groom” them to be heterosexual any more than hetero kids reading about two male penguins is “grooming” them to be gay.

“When we restrict access to books in school that properly reflect our nation’s history and unique voices, we eliminate the mirror in which young people see themselves reflected, and we eradicate the window in which young people can comprehend the unique experiences of others,” first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom said in a press release. “In short, book bans harm all children and youth, diminishing communal empathy and serving to further engender intolerance and division across society. We Californians believe all children must have the freedom to learn about the world around them and this new law is a critical step in protecting this right.”


Travelers increasingly combine work and play

Business travelers are not all the same. Road warriors sleep in hotels more than they do their own bed, some travel solo, others only in groups. Then there are those who mix business and pleasure.

It’s these “bleisure” travelers (business + leisure) who are beginning to make a stronger impact on the bottom line at hotels and ancillary businesses.

People are finding a way to combine work and leisure. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The pandemic led to the increase in this type of traveler with the ability to work from nearly anywhere. Add on the bottled-up desire for travel, and even more people are tacking on extra days after official business obligations are finished.

“The pandemic helped spawn a new wave of travelers called bleisure travelers. In a recent Morning Consult survey for AHLA, 56% of business travelers said they have extended a work trip for leisure purposes in the past year, and 86% of business travelers said they are interested in bleisure travel,“ said Chip Rogers, American Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO.

Rogers added, “Bleisure travelers have different needs and expectations than traditional business travelers, and hotels are adapting to meet those needs. Perhaps the most important amenity for doing so is robust and secure internet services. This is key to accommodating telework. Other offerings vary from property to property, and examples might include more experience packages, changes in food offerings, or shuttle service to popular destinations.”

Mike Lennon, general manager of Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, said, “The question I get most is, ‘Can I trust your Wi-Fi?’”

His “yes” means that person can work and play at his Calistoga property. The Wi-Fi was upgraded during the pandemic specifically to cater to the bleisure traveler.

“We just had a Silicon Valley executive who took the opportunity to bring his family up while he could work. He was appreciative we could help him with that,” Lennon said.

Help comes by letting people use the conference room for a video call or other private business matter.

“We do see people traveling with family still doing business because we see them with laptops open and it looks like they are having conference calls,” Lennon said.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa’s sales team reports “approximately 70% of the resort’s meeting groups take advantage of either pre- or post-bleisure stays.”

“I think it’s a combination of a couple things. There is a lot of pent-up demand for travel. If a company is hosting a trip and you can work remotely or take time off or if you are only required to be in the office two or three days a week, you can easily work at a resort, especially if the company already paid to get you to and from the destination,” said Fairmont spokeswoman Michelle Heston.

While leisure travel was the quickest to rebound since the pandemic, business travel is inconsistent at properties.

Group business travel is changing in that massive meetings in huge ballrooms are no longer the norm. Companies are planning group bike rides, wine tasting and other experiential events.

This gives attendees a broader sample of what an area is all about, thus planting the idea to stay and explore when the work part of the trip is over.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the North Bay Business Journal.

Jewel showcases her songwriting, vocal prowess

What a difference 16 years can make. That’s the time span between the two times I’ve seen Jewel in concert.

Her voice. Wow! The range. Incredible. The depth to her songs. The artistry of her guitar playing.

Jewel delights the audience Sept. 16 at Thunder Valley Casino in Northern California. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It has been a long while since I have been so thrilled to be at a concert.

No band accompanied her. It was just Jewel and her guitar, just like it was in 2007 when I saw her at Lake Tahoe at what was MontBleu casino and is now Bally’s.

On Sept. 16 it was another gaming venue—Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln. What a dynamic indoor concert facility.

What was different this time was Jewel’s sense of maturity. (She’s 49, would have been 33 when I first saw her.) A maturity in her stage presence, in her songs, in the way she carried herself, in her connection with the audience.

She is a songwriter before she is a singer. Jewel even spoke of how she has a catalog of songs she’s written but hasn’t recorded. That’s encouraging for her fans; knowing more albums are likely to be forthcoming.

On this night, she didn’t hold back on what she thought of Jann Werner’s (think Rolling Stone magazine) new book about the music scene not containing a single woman or person of color. The news had come out the previous day.

The New York Times wrote: “(Werner) said that none were ‘as articulate enough on this intellectual level,’ and that he did not view them as ‘philosophers of rock.’”

Edwin McCain, a talented songwriter in his own right, and Gina Miles, who won The Voice this year, opened for her.

Most of what Jewel shared in her more than two-hour set, that ran slightly past the curfew, were stories about herself. In Tahoe she wouldn’t have been able to talk about being a single mom, as she was still married then and didn’t have a child.

She is open about her childhood, her parents, being homeless. It has made her the empathetic woman she is today.

Jewel is a founding partner of the Inspiring Children Foundation, which focuses on “the physical, social, emotional and mental health that they need to heal, grow, and perform at the highest levels.” She is the co-founder of InnerWorld, which is a peer-to-peer mental health platform.

What made the concert so wonderful is that it truly seemed like Jewel was having fun. She wasn’t just going through the motions—another night a work, so to speak.

While there were songs she wanted to sing—some old, some new—she also took requests. She didn’t have the night all mapped out. It was relaxed and not choreographed. It was real. Almost like she was there just for us—and our 4,000 friends who were also there.

It’s hard to make a venue of that size feel intimate, but Jewel did—with her spoken words and her songs.

GOP presidential candidates begin to distinguish themselves

One of the major components of a debate is listening. If two or more people are talking at once, it’s no longer a debate.

That’s why it’s hard to call what the GOP presidential candidates participated in last week as a true debate.

Nonetheless, I was glad I watched it—even though at times I was talking back to the TV.

One of those eight could be the next president of the United States. A lot has to happen for one of them to even be the Republican nominee. Still, I think it’s important to be paying attention now.

Watching and listening adds to who they are. Reading their words in print the next day isn’t always the same. You don’t have tone. You don’t have the mannerisms.

It’s one thing to be passionate, it’s another to come across as a whack-a-doodle. One in particular was the latter. I hope he is just a flash in the pan and burns out quickly.

Those who were calm, could get their point across without denigrating others, who spoke to issues—well, they caught my attention.

What you do get the next day in print is fact checking, which in a situation like this “debate” does not happen in the moment. Hopefully, those who will be voting in the Republican primaries and caucusing for the GOP, will seek out facts and not sound bites. (This goes for all elections for every party.)

There will be more debates. Watch, listen and learn.

Highways in California much older than the agency that oversees them

Just because there wasn’t a department of transportation doesn’t mean there weren’t roads or even highways and freeways.

I was surprised to learn Caltrans (aka California Department of Transportation) only turned 50 this summer. I would have guessed it started a lot sooner than 1973.

Caltrans crews repave parts of Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe in 2011. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Caltrans was created to bring all the transportation related entities under one umbrella.

It was in 1895 that the Bureau of Highways was created in the state. At this time, the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road Commission was also created. That road is now what we know as Highway 50 over the Sierra.

The bureau existed until 1907 when the Department of Engineering came into being.

“The bureau studied highway needs and made recommendations for a 4,500-mile state highway system,” according to Caltrans.

In 1897 the Legislature allocated the first funds for state roads.

The first state highway construction contract was awarded and signed in 1912, with work beginning the same year. This was for Highway 1, El Camino Real, Pacific Coast route.

1923 brought the first state gas tax (2 cents/gallon) in order to expand the highway system. By 1983 the gas tax had risen to 9 cents a gallon, the first increase in 20 years. Today the tax is about 58 cents/gallon.

The Bay Bridge opened in 1936, while Highway 1 was completed the following year.

Caltrans notes, “President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. Under the act, the federal government supplied 90 percent of funding for interstate highways, with the state paying the remaining 10 percent.”

Of significant note for those who travel to the Sierra: “The 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley served as impetus to build Interstate 80. Interstate 80 became the first all-weather, trans-Sierra Nevada highway and was nationally recognized as a major engineering achievement,” according to Caltrans.

Cherishing 50 years of friendship

Darla, Kae and AJ at Punto Lobos near Todos Santos, Mexico, in 2019. (Image: Darla Sadler)

Fifty years ago this month I met Darla.

I had moved with my family to Concord, Calif., from Springfield, Va., a month before I turned 8. She and her family lived next door. I soon found out she was a year and grade older than me. She would be a fourth-grader that fall.

Darla is the longest friendship I have. A lot of memories are tied up in those five decades.

Despite being a freshman and sophomore in college, Kae and Darla tell Santa what they want for Christmas in 1983.

We don’t see each other as often as we would like, though I just visited her at her home in Bend, Ore., last month. A bonus was getting to see her mom, who has also relocated to Central Oregon.

We have a ton in common, and yet we are so very different.

I credit her with teaching me how to snow ski—as well as the etiquette of the sport. To this day she is such a beautiful skier, making it look so effortless. I never came close. We had such fun family trips to Tahoe, Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, and that time to Sun Valley, Idaho, with our parents.

Kae and Darla at Catalina Island in 1984 where Kae’s parents were living temporarily.

My parents introduced her to water skiing. At times she was like a fifth daughter to them.

I’ve never been a morning person. Oh, my goodness, she is such a morning person to this day. As kids she would come over to see if I could come out and play. My mom would say I was still in bed. No one has ever liked to wake me up because I’m not all that friendly, but Darla persevered.

On our cul-de-sac there were other families with kids around our age. We played baseball with a tennis ball. When a neighbor dad complained we were messing up the rocks in his front yard, our dads said just hit the ball that way and don’t worry about it going in either of our yards.

We made up games—like flashlight. This was a precursor to paintball. If only we had known, all of us kids could have capitalized off our innovation.

She had a swimming pool where we spent so many summer days. We pretended to be Olympians at least one summer.

We talked about boys and then girls.

There have been plenty of ebbs and flows to the relationship. Laughter and tears, disagreements, forgiveness, significant others have come and gone, job changes, new addresses—but nothing can rock the foundation of our friendship.

We offer each other a place to be vulnerable without judgment. We let each other vent. We offer advice without preaching.

Kae and Darla floating on the Deschutes River in Bend, Ore., in July. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

We support each other; though that doesn’t mean we always see eye-to-eye. And that’s good. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

We can discuss the mundane as well as the serious. We can chill or work up a sweat.

I still haven’t gotten her to like wine, but there are plenty of breweries to enjoy.

I can’t imagine us not being friends for the rest of our lives. I know I could call on her for absolutely anything, at any hour of the day or night without question. Questions might come later, but she would be there in the moment. And I would do the same for her.

I am thankful for Darla’s friendship. It has taken work. There have been periods where we didn’t communicate much. Life does that. But like any relationship, it can last with effort and desire.

This is a friendship I will never take for granted. Thanks, Darla, for these 50 years of friendship. Ours is one of the most important relationships I have.

Iconic Mark Twain impersonator bids farewell


MacAvoy Layne as Mark Twain aboard the M.S. Dixie in Lake Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Countless authors have set their books in Lake Tahoe or written about this mountain locale. One of the most famous is Mark Twain.

Considering he died in 1910, I clearly never met him. But I feel like I have.

This is thanks to MacAvoy Layne. For 35 years Layne has been the embodiment of this iconic literary figure.

He’s finally retiring. On Sept. 30 he will give his last performance at Pipers’ Opera House in Virginia City, Nev., the same location he first performed as Mark Twain. He has a few other gigs before then.

Layne has put on more than 4,000 performances. I’ve never seen him break character. He speaks as though he is really is Twain and that it certainly isn’t 2023.

The stories he tells are fun, entertaining, honest, witty and that of a humorist.

On his website, Layne describes his job like this: “It’s like being a Monday through Friday preacher, whose sermon, though not reverently pious, is fervently American.”

It’s not just Tahoe and regional audiences Layne has entertained. He played the ghost of Samuel Clemens in the Biography Channel’s episode of Mark Twain and in the Discovery Channel’s documentary Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

While it’s been a while since I’ve seen him perform, he left a lasting impression on me.

‘Barbie’ is a must-see even if you never played with the doll

When the buzz about the Barbie movie started earlier this year I was like “whatever”—and whatever in a very judgmental tone.

I don’t recall playing with Barbie, though one of my best friends insists we did.

My image of Barbie (pre-seeing the movie) was essentially a farce on what a woman was supposed to look like. I later believed Barbie and Ken were some weird fictionalized images of what women and men are supposed to look like. I was never going to have Barbie’s physical proportions.

In the periphery I knew other Barbies came out through the years, but I wasn’t really knowing of all the transformations. Barbie could have nearly every job imaginable—even U.S. president. (That’s how I would like fiction to become reality.) Barbie had different proportions, skin tone and hair color.

As Barbie evolved, my image of her didn’t because the doll just wasn’t part of my life or those around me. I guess I should have been paying better attention.

But because I wasn’t paying attention, my thoughts of a movie idolizing some warped sense of women and a doll that I don’t remember playing with seemed like a waste of my time and money.

Then I started reading reviews. I saw trailers. Then I read the monologue by America Ferrera who plays Gloria. That clinched it for me. I was convinced this was a movie I wanted to see.

It’s men who should be seeing it, especially by the reaction of the guy in the row in front of us. He was with a woman. He didn’t get it. Maybe it felt like a mirror was on the screen and that’s why he was so uncomfortable.

Go see it. It’s powerful and it’s fun.

Here is that monologue:

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.

But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.

You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.

Oregon about to let people pump their own gas

Next time I’m in Oregon I will be pumping my own gas.

This is because in June the Legislature passed a law allowing for self-serve gas stations and the governor agrees it’s a good idea.

People will soon be able to legally pump their own gas in Oregon. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is a big change. Lawmakers in 1951 thought the concept of pumping one’s own gas was a bad idea and instituted rules to prohibit that practice. The logic at the time was rooted in fear of fire and not wanting to eliminate jobs.

Based on my experience last month in Oregon, it’s not going to eliminate too many jobs. Only one person was working each of the stations I went to. This was inefficient.

On top of that, the dudes never washed my windshield.

At least when I was in Baja, where people are also paid to pump customers’ gas, my windows were always washed. The person would even ask if I wanted the oil checked, which I never did because I wasn’t going to be able understand what they said and it’s easy enough to check myself. It was customary there to tip the service attendant 20 pesos (about $1).

According to NACS, the leading global trade association dedicated to advancing convenience and fuel retailing, it was in 1947 that Frank Urich opened the first self-service gas station in Los Angeles.

However, it was John Roscoe who in 1964 revolutionized the concept by implementing the first remote access self-service gas pumps in the U.S. in Colorado. Herb Timms is credited with inventing the device that allowed the gas station attendant inside a convenience store or the like to essentially turn the pumps on and off for customers.

It was in the mid-1980s that people could use credit cards at the pump without engaging an employee.

Once Oregon let’s people pump their gas, it will leave New Jersey as the only state that mandates someone else do it.

Hospital visitors allowed to roam without impediment

On the one hand, I love being to go where I want to go without anyone asking me what I’m up to. On the other hand, when someone I care about is in the hospital, it’s alarming to know others could be going where they want to as well without anyone asking what they are up to.

I was at Enloe Medical Center in Chico as a visitor on consecutive days in July to be with someone having elective surgery. (She’s fine, thanks.)

No visitor badge required.

No escort required to get me to her room.

I came and went through different entrances and no one asked me what I was doing at the hospital. I walked directly to the elevators, got off on the appropriate floor, wandered around until I found the correct room, and entered the room as someone was exiting—we exchanged hellos. At no time did anyone ask who I was, who I was visiting, what I was doing, or even if they could help me locate the patient.

Coming from South Lake Tahoe this is not what I was used to. Volunteers at Barton Memorial Hospital’s courtesy desk don’t let you go by without confirming why you are there—patient or visitor. Everyone without a badge gets stopped.

I know I couldn’t get onto every floor or wing at Enloe. In fact, one person said how security is the most restrictive where the babies are. And when I was trying to figure out where the exit was doors opened to another wing; there someone said I could not walk through them without authorization. They pointed me to the exit.

Still, what I was left with was being surprised I had the kind of access I had to the hospital. I’m sure there were cameras everywhere. I’m also guessing that footage isn’t going to be useful until after someone does something bad as opposed to someone monitoring the camera images in real time.

I would prefer signing in as I enter a hospital, even having to check out. My goodness, I have to do that to walk dogs at the humane society. And while I think most dogs are more important than most people, when it’s my mom in the hospital, well, I don’t want just anyone to be able to enter her room. And that wasn’t the case at Enloe.

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