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Editor's Note

Ce n’est pas une orange

by Andrew Tonkovich

The final 2023 cover image of Citric Acid helpfully captures something of this journal’s mission, of both imagining and reimagining our beautiful if benighted county. It’s a photograph of the transplanting of one of the few remaining orange trees left in the tiny grove at the edge of Irvine Valley College. I like it. The everyday treachery of images, of signs, of narratives conspire, elegantly, easily, with the sincere gesture, the act of resistance, the life of joyful struggle. An iconic, decades-old hangar burns. An activist friend dies. And another. People forget. Liars spread lies. State power and militarists trick people into yet another war. Political speech is fetishized to obscure genuine discourse. There’s plenty of loss, justified fear, and the confusing and confused babble of distraction and denial. Happily, there’s art and insight, meditation and analysis, and creative resistance, too. You’ll find all of these in the eighth issue of Orange County’s unlikeliest journal.

Meanwhile, I’ve been driving the Richard Nixon Freeway lately, and not Interstate 90, those few miles in Marina del Rey completely unconnected to a few more miles in faraway Yorba Linda. My own perverse if always intellectually helpful engagement with Nixonland (as in the excellent book Nixonland by Rick Perlstein) was lately re-inspired by reading a new Nixon hagiography. You’ve got to hand it to the author of Richard Nixon: California’s Native Son, Paul Carter, a fanboy GOP lawyer who took on a Sisyphean task, fantastical and absurd, of arguing that if we all just knew as much as we could stand about where Richard grew up, well, we might change our minds about what he did when he grew up. (We dare you to read it. We double-dare you to fact check and review it for Citric Acid!)

Nixonland is a real place, and we choose to live in it I guess, but it seems you can also choose not to mention in an actual book the native son’s red-baiting of Jerry Voorhis and Helen Gahagan Douglas, sending Madame Chennault to derail peace talks, invading Cambodia and Laos, making secret recordings, covering up Watergate, don’t get me started. (Too late.)

“People have a right to know if their president is a crook,” sure, but in Carterland they are encouraged not to exercise that right. Meanwhile, Tricky Dick’s stooge and accomplice Henry Kissinger is still dead, which recalls the time I bumped into him, literally, in the ersatz Oval Office over in Yorba Linda at the rededication of the RN Presidential Library and Museum. I mention that moment, among other weird ones in my 2016 cover story for the OC Weekly.

This issue notes the loss of the famous hangar with an obituary and a comic, by poet Lorene Delany-Ullman and Grant Hoskins, respectively. It includes original fiction by managing editor Jaime Campbell and return contributors Peter Gerrard and Paul Kareem Tayyar. There’s poetry from Danielle Hanson, and notes on her Chinese Republicans by playwright Alex Lin. South Coast Rep recently presented a staged reading of the play at its NewSCRipts play-reading series. It’s brilliant.

David Womack meditates on end-of-life care with humor and empathy. Longtime KUCI civic affairs radio host Claudia Shambaugh celebrates radio activism. We share the preface to Stefan Mattessich’s new novel The Riverbed, and legendary novelist, short story writer, and, lately, memoirist James Blaylock takes us to the beach. Recently retired OC Public Library administrator (and acclaimed poet!) Stephanie Brown reviews her career --- a calling, it seems --- and celebrates a favorite democratic institution.

Finally, Matt Coker offers a remembrance of our late friend, colleague, and political comrade Professor Roy Bauer, and we reprint another OC Weekly piece, this one Coker’s profile of Roy. This issue is, of course, dedicated to Roy John Bauer (1955-2023), about whom somebody should write a biography. Or a hagiography, working title Philosophy Professor and Activist Roy Bauer: California’s Native Son Who Comforted the Afflicted and Afflicted the Comfortable (and With Jokes, Too.) He taught Philosophy at Irvine Valley College for decades. He served for over 25 years on the IVC Academic Senate, was a resolute teacher and excellent and beloved (by some) colleague. In the mid-90s he watched as thugs who controlled the union (“rat bastards,” a favorite Bauerism) allotted themselves huge salaries, bogus overtime, did little teaching, and made fools of themselves in public, partly by endorsing sketchy South Orange County Community College Board of Trustees candidates whose singular qualifications were not looking too closely at their pay and accepting the then-corrupt union leadership’s endorsement and contributions. One of those candidates --- you can’t make this up --- was a conspiracy-theorist high school history teacher and Holocaust denier. It gets better, or worse, but it inspired a previously apolitical and non-activist Roy (if committed animal rights guy and vegetarian) to attend board meetings, take notes, do research, and feed news of district shenanigans to newspaper reporters.  

He founded Dissent, a regular newsletter which he wrote, edited, created hilarious clip-art collages for, photocopied, and delivered by hand to all the faculty, staff, Board of Trustees, and union mailboxes at both SOCCCD campuses, IVC and Saddleback. Naturally, many were delighted, amused, and inspired to action. Naturally, he was persecuted by a series of reactionary presidents, chancellors and board members, including one who is now an Orange County Supervisor, imagine that. (This fellow also objected to the district’s membership in the American Library Association owing to that organization's insufficient support of the illegal invasion of and war against Iraq. Good times!) Lacking a sense of humor or shame, or even political acumen, the administration assigned Roy to “anger management” classes after insisting that his hyperbolic and obviously satirical writing and comics posed a workplace danger. Professor Lisa Alvarez, a Dissent contributor (“Rebel Girl”) and no slouch herself, pulled out her activist Rolodex and called legendary civil rights attorney and longtime friend Carol Sobel who, of course, kicked their ass and got Roy a nice settlement and attorney's fees. There’s more, lots more, and before he died, Roy archived and posted all the print Dissents on what after some years became Dissent the Blog, an online investigative platform, opinion and humor site, and perhaps the best chronicle of the struggles at any district anywhere, from the lowest and meanest and most hilarious shenanigans (think Arrested Development) to, eventually, the reform of the union, removal of anti-“shared governance” administrators and, lately, the leadership of amazing presidents at Irvine Valley College and Saddleback.

If I shared more, you’d think I made it all up. Helpfully, former OC Weekly writer/editor Matt Coker shares a remembrance of our late friend by way of introducing our reprint of his profile of the “UnaBauer.” 

Thanks for reading this far. You can tell that I loved Roy, and that many on the side of integrity, exacting standards, humane engagement, and labor justice did. Some did not. Why would they?

Two final stories. When given the chance, or forced to do the right thing, people often do it. At the regular SOCCCD Board of Trustees meeting held the day he died, and after offering many tributes to Roy, the meeting in the Ronald Reagan Board of Trustees Room (!) was adjourned in his memory with, again, I kid you not, the playing of the first few haunting, magnificent and powerful lines of “Crossroad” by one of Roy’s favorite artists, the Ur-bluesman Robert Johnson: “Standin' at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride. Didn't nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by…” And Steve Rochford, emeritus professor of Music at IVC, a friend and colleague, recently dedicated the performance of an iconic piece, "Lyric for Band," when he guest conducted at the college's Winter Wind Symphony concert. The piece is of course an arrangement of George Walker's classic "Lyric for Strings" by the legendary African American Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. Thanks to all who constructed the moment, and the image above, of mourning and affection, with conductor Rochford and his ensemble putting life to music, music to a life.

We also remember Vivian Folkenflick, (1940-2023) a longtime Lecturer at UC Irvine, and political comrade who came out to protest that crazy Holocaust denier and who, as part of a long life of creative resistance and political engagement joined both (!) attempts (both failed) to recall the fascist clown from office. (It’s Orange County, Jake.)

Thanks always to Joel Cazares and our non-profit sponsors at Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities. Thanks to you for reading, subscribing to --- and, please --- donating to Citric Acid. Please hit the orange “donate” button and type in “Citric Acid” where prompted.

In all kinds of solidarity,

“Red Emma”

*Title Photo by Lisa Alvarez
**Hangar Photo by Linda Thomas
***Concert Photo by Shigeo Nagayama
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