Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, August 25, 2018

I could tell

I’ve had epiphanies while in Vegas. Some things are bound to happen. I won’t be able to sleep, I’ll drink too many beers and when I yell at my husband to leave a machine, he will ignore me and win.

We saw Jack White last night at the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan Casino. The hotel is glitzy. Lots of velvet and rhinestones. We sat at one of the bars before the show and paid fifteen bucks a drink to people watch. Well actually, Adrian’s whiskey was fifteen and my beer was only eight bucks. Only?

I expected the theater to be large but it was cozy. We had general admission floor and that was the largest part of the theater. There was plenty of room. Jack White was wearing a purple silk blouse over a black long sleeved tee shirt and a cap. He seemed to break free when he came back onstage after ditching the purple silk in the black shirt only with his dark locks flowing.

He is a guitar god. Seriously. Watching him play guitar is mesmerizing. It can sometimes be too much because I’m always craving his voice. His voice is one of my favorites. It’s quirky, passionate and true.

So when he sang “We are gonna be friends” in a slight quiver, voice breaking, while just barely strumming his guitar, the boy about brought me to tears. About you ask? OK, I admit it, I cried.

The song has always reminded me of my sisters, especially of my twin, who I walked to school with every day and we even shared a classroom in our short stint in Catholic School:

“Nouns, and books, and show and tell
Playtime we will throw the ball
Back to class, through the hall
Teacher marks our height against the wall
Teacher marks our height against the wall

We don't notice any time pass
We don't notice anything
We sit side by side in every class
Teacher thinks that I sound funny
But she likes the way you sing.”

(The White Stripes)

That is the power of music. It moves you. It triggers memories. It makes you ache and sigh and sometimes, smile and cry.

And always while singing along.

(Sans cell phone due to his no cell phone policy)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

what we eat

There is a cliche, we are what we eat. But, some cliches are cliches because they are true. I went plant based almost three weeks ago. I was desperate.

My intestinal and digestive issues had reached a crisis point. I was seeing specialists and about to be poked and prodded and tested into distress.

So I made a change. At first, it seemed insurmountable. I decided to go vegan. No meat, cheese or milk. No eggs or butter (which were my staples). Fruits, nuts legumes and vegetables only. With some protein powder thrown in for good measure.

Now, a mere three weeks later, I feel better. Not perfect, but much better. My body is still ridden with issues, mostly habit based. I run to the restroom after lunch or dinner still, but nothing happens. It is as if my body has to adjust to this new way of eating.

And I have lost weight. I feel less bloated. For me, at least, it is really about feeling good and if weight loss comes as a result of more organic and healthy eating, so be it. But I am done with the scale. If an old dress fits, I will know I have lost weight.

Here is some truth: when your mother in law tells you that you have lost some weight, you know that is more reliable than any scale.

It also feels good ethically speaking. I have always been an animal lover and to eat them has always made me uncomfortable. While in San Francisco, I was vegetarian for a spell, but ate mostly French fries and grilled cheeses. Recently, I have naturally gravitated towards toast and tea or coffee but the problem was the butter which aggravated my issues. This is about better eating. About watching what I put in my mouth.

Ultimately, I say, do what works best for you health wise. And what makes you feel good.

In your body, head and especially in your heart.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Country Mantz’s Daughter

Up early as usual, I turn on the television and the Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner's Daughter is on. It is one of my favorite movies. Seen it at least twenty times. It always brings my father's image to my mind.

I remember watching it at the drive-in with my father, John William Mantz Jr, when I was little. Dad would drive up in his ratty old pickup truck, and me and my sisters would pile out of the back of the cab where we had been hiding to save on the admission. We would take our lawn chairs out, then the blankets and finally, our double brown paper bagged homemade popcorn. We would sit and watch the first movie in silence. It was always a double feature unless the movie was a long one.

Dad loved that movie so much because he loved him some Loretta Lynn. Loretta Lynn was the first concert I ever went to. She played at the Pomona Fair.  I must have been seven or eight.  I can remember Dad being so happy to see her live. I can tell you what he wore: a pair of Wrangler jeans held up by his Big John Belt buckle, a blue denim country western shirt probably with a bolo tie, a cowboy hat and of course, his shit kicking cowboy boots.

As kids, me and my sisters dismissed country music. We liked The Go-Go's, Pat Benatar and Oliva Newton-John. But Dad didn't give up on us. He said one day we would love country. Dad was a huge country music fan. He always blasted Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. He loved all of the Outlaws along with Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and his favorite Loretta Lynn. It was her singing that drew him in I am sure, but also her story. She was raised dirt poor in Kentucky. He was raised dirt poor in Montana.

There was a truthfulness to all of her music. Dad was many things and true was one of them. And he was also right because now in my mid forties, country music, especially the old Outlaw stuff, is one of my favorites. And, I adore me some Loretta Lynn.

Dad, you were right. It took me many years, but I am proud to say it. I am a country man's daughter.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected (a review)

Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected (a review)

This last weekend, I participated in my friend liz gonzález’s book launch party at the San Bernardino History & Railroad Museum inside the San Bernadino Santa Fe Depot. Her book is called “Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected” (Los Nietos Press 2018). liz gonzález is amazing. And her book is sublime. She is a San Bernardino Valley native and goes back four generations.

liz's writing sparkles. It is so vivid, and if voice was measured in heartbeats, her heart rate would be off the charts. And, liz’s book is all heart, grounded in family and the geography of the San Bernardino Valley where she grew up. The craft and skill is evident from the very first page. The book defies genre. Poems and prose. Part memoir. In it, you hear the voice of liz along with her mother, grandmother, and sisters.

Her definition of Latinx is one that puts the typical stereotype on its head.  Her narrator is funny and self deprecating. Take for example this excerpt from her poem, "Confessions of a Pseudo-Chicana":

"...Mama raised us on Hamburger Helper and Macaroni and Cheese.

She never even made a pot of beans.

I learned how to make tortillas

from Mrs. MacDougall in home ec.

Mama still uses the recipe."

The book is nostalgic but unsentimental. In most of my favorite books, place is a character. And, place is everything in liz's work. California is a character and more specifically and importantly, the Inland Empire is a character. And even more specific than that, San Bernardino is a character, a city that has been long neglected from the California literary discourse. Until now. Take for example this excerpt from liz's poem, "The Summer Before 9th Grade" where she creates a narrator who is linked to both past and present, the old and the new, connecting Robert Frost and San Bernardino.

"I made a pit stop at Esperanza Market

on Mount Vernon Avenue where the butcher

wrapped up a pickled pigs' pig’s foot for me.

With my legs sweat-stuck to the plastic bench seat,

I gnawed that pata to the bone,

cooled off with Robert Frost’s poems.

The bus slanted up Fifth Street to Foothill

while I dove deep into songs of tinkling brooks

and leafless woods until my stop

at the bench on Meridian Avenue." 

To read more, you will have to buy the book and it is available on the press' website at And see liz's reading and event schedule at

 You will be blown away.

 (Excerpts from poems are from “Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected” by liz gonzález)

liz's book "Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected" (picture by Juanita E. Mantz)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The night the lights went out in....

So last night at 11 pm they shut the power off. They being the electric company. For scheduled maintenance. They had told us it would last 6 hours.

Despite having been warned via email, and text from hubby, by 10:59 pm I had forgotten. I had just got home from a long day at the beach with my niece. I was about to go to sleep knowing that the next day, I had a long day ahead.

So it was 11 pm. The dogs and I were upstairs. The lights were on because hubby was with his mom up the hill and I was nervous. Reading. Eyelids wouldn’t stay open. Trying to fall asleep, and I was almost there. 

Then whoosh. The lights. The air. It all turned off in a surge. Immediately, Frodo and Chewbaca started whining. The fire alarm wouldn’t stop chirping. It was pitch black.

I tried to sleep but Chewie, who is very neurotic even for a shih tzu, refused to go to sleep. He started barking and we padded down the stairs slowly. Squinting, I held on to the banister. I couldn’t find the flashlight so I used my phone, which had a mere 22 percent of its battery life left, for light.

We went up and down at least five times. Chewie wouldn’t relax so neither could I. Then, Frodo joined in too. Up and down we went. 

By 12:30 am, I was exhausted. It was getting warm in the house already. I slept on the couch and caught 15 minutes of shut eye before the dogs woke me up again barking at the dark silence. I took the dogs outside and sighed into the sight of our darkened street. Maybe I should just drive up the hill I thought.

I couldn’t see anything upstairs so I left my pjs on and piled the dogs in the car. Called hubby. “No, go to sleep. It’s dark and windy and the cajon pass is too dangerous,” he said groggily.

I decided to get a cold low sugar lemonade. At the Del Taco drive thru, their card reader was down, so I spent 15 minutes waiting to drive by the window as they only took cash. Peering at the Jack in the Box, I decided to risk it.

“I’ll have a Diet Coke and a small fry.”

The kid passed me my fries and drink. I went home to the dark house and sat on the couch as I sipped my soda and ate my fries. My dogs sat by my feet and whined again. And again. And again.

At 2 am, another whoosh. Power back on. 

Thank you baby Jesus I thought. I had as much as I could handle. I watched Food Truck Race. And finally nodded off. 

Maybe that’s my point here. I need to stop panicking when life throws me curveballs. Because eventually, the lights come back on. 

Sometimes, sooner than you think.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


I’ve been ruminating on why I write.

I’ve written on this issue before (see

But now, in my mid forties, I think I write because I must. When I write, at least sometimes, I lose myself in it. It’s as if I am transported back to my childhood and I hear my dad’s voice.

They don’t tell you as a child how hard life is. Maybe we wouldn’t want to grow up. Everyone would be Peter Pan. But, as an adult, I think back and understand it a bit more. That is why memoir works. Looking back retrospectively, the connections are clearer. The intersections make sense. I write to understand and discover myself. And that’s what and why I write.

Everything seemed so less complicated back then in the 1970s and 1980s. There were 5 or 6 channels on the television. No cell phones or Internet. I remember when we got a phone with call waiting. It was a big deal. Before that, you would have to call and call and get a busy signal.

My childhood and teenage years were spent outdoors in Ontario, California. Riding bikes, walking to my best friends’ houses or to the ballgame. We drank and smoked, but drugs were less common. There was a Pizza Hut that was a real restaurant with red checkered tablecloths and tiny televisions you could watch for a quarter. Drive In theaters were the Saturday night staple with my dad or a game of Rummy.

It was hard to make it as a blue collar family, but my parents made it fine for many years until they didn’t. And that’s where the story is. In how my family broke apart and came back together. How I broke down my senior year of high school and put myself back together again.

I guess I write because I’m nostalgic. I try not to be too sentimental. I’m obsessed with character. Less with plot. I think there is beauty in capturing the ordinary.

I have a line in a poem: “What some call humdrum I name bliss”.

So that’s why I write. That’s why.