Of Gold Dust and Grinding Rocks


Two books by Heyday Press paired together in this review to make compelling bookends for the native experience in California’s Sierra. “Deep Hanging Out: Wanderings and Wonderment in Native California” just published and “Deeper Than Gold: A Guide to Indian Life in the Sierra Foothills” from 2005 combine to provide images, first-person accounts, and a sly coyote’s commentary from within the trusted circle of native friends.

Read more here for the full book review…

A few SF favorites ever so slightly off the beaten trail



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The view from Coit Tower across San Francisco to the Gold Gate

We have friends visiting from the East Coast who have never been to San Francisco. This begs the question, what would you want to share in this mythical city if you only had one day?

Of course, there are the tour book favorites, which are all so crowded that you can barely see your own feet (or so it seems at times), but what else? Where are the less known places that might not be found?

These are the questions I asked myself after some decades of mixed wandering and residency in the city by the bay.

First off, my personal choice is to NOT follow the tour books unless you love crowds and feeling like a lemming. Look for local neighborhoods, which have their own flavor. Sure, yes, there are a few exceptions and even the “offbeat sites” are well-trafficked.

Note: These are a few tips for straight-up quick sightseeing—maybe I’ll write in the future about hikes, literature, neighborhoods, and art. Been there, done that? No worries, on to the next experience to sample.

Here are a few places that might get missed:

The Marina District is at the edge of the city and as such, offers great views and sea breezes, easy access to any major thoroughfare and highways, too. Let’s start there.

Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
Why not? You can catch a cab back on the other side. The view in the middle is remarkable and totally free.

Palace of the Fine Arts Garden
This one-time site of the World’s Fair is still a wonderful spot to enjoy swans, bougainvillea, and local color.

Fort Mason Center

Marina Green
Take a stroll on the Marina Green. Drop by Fort Mason and check out the daily menu at Green’s or see if the Long Now Foundation’s Interval Cafe might be open.

Golden Gate Park & Japanese Tea Garden
Spectacular and huge, there is more to do than would fit in a single day, so why not choose the extremely picturesque Japanese Tea Garden and then whatever suits your eye and timing. You can see the exterior of the DeYoung Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Conservatory of Flowers.

Japanese Tea Garden

Pied Piper by Maxfield Parish at Sheraton Palace
I love that for the price of a beverage, you can hang out with a playful mural by Mayfield Parish.

And then there’s North Beach…
Fill in some history with culture by dropping by City Lights Bookstore and then making your way down the street to Cafe Zoetrope where you can perhaps try meatballs made from Francis Ford Coppola’s mother’s recipe. Too bad if you are on a non-dairy diet because the tiramisu is divine.

The building itself has a fantastic history, and Coppola provides access to Zoetrope All-Story by way of a printing machine near the bar (need to confirm—may not still be there).

Coit Tower
Coit Tower can be seen from many vantage points and it is arguably worth doing the many stairs to just stand there once, but the real reward is the murals done as WPA projects.

To SoMa & Surrounds
See what’s up at The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Gardens. Make sure to check out the fountain dedicated to Martin Luther King.

If you still have a little time left, put your feet up and take in the view with a pricey beverage in hand, at the rooftop bar at the Proper Hotel, Charmaine’s. This is new to me and let me know what you think.

PS—I avoid Ghiradelli, Union Square, Pier 39, and Fisherman’s Wharf—so many other delights that are less populated, not to say these spots don’t have their own wonders if time allows.

Any favorites to add? What would you want to share? Drop me a note at pamela@pamelab.com

California Dreamin’ On the Big Screen



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Note: Watch for an upcoming exclusive series of special video talks by Dream State author San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle hosted by TheOnyxTheatre.com. Book review follows.

Mick LaSalle’s new book, Dream State, California in the Movies, is a revealing journey into the psyche of California as it is reflected in cinema. Longtime San Francisco film critic Mick LaSalle has a knack for getting to the story behind the story and this book is full of great perceptions of just what California cinema expresses both intentionally and unintentionally through its film industry.

Dream State is a methodical examination of how California appears in film, from San Francisco to Los Angeles with a wonderfully witty narrative on just how many ways we can see the Golden Gate Bridge being destroyed. With chapters that take on the myth-making behind the Wizard of Oz and the dark underbelly of Film Noir, the reader begins to sense that Hollywood is both vacuous and deliciously full at the same moment, and this moment is a uniquely California moment, made possible at least in part, by a beautiful, mild and changeable climate where life just looks a bit more glamorous before the cameras start rolling.

For those who like to go below the surface of film, Dream State is a must read. LaSalle’s career as a film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle provides him with a steady flow of apt observations and most importantly, the connective tissue that is implied or perhaps hinted at as both cultural and cinematic references. One aspect that emerges as a theme is the dissonance between perception and reality as perpetuated through cinema–not the obvious, but rather the moments that tend to go largely unrecognized but have great influence, which LaSalle is near genius at identifying.

There are dozens of films mentioned, each presented with unconventional rarely discussed viewpoints. The eleven chapters include distinctly different time generations and genres, examining how Pearl Harbor is portrayed then and now, as well as Romance and Utopian visions. This is not a book of reviews or even in a certain sense, the in-depth discussion of individual films, but rather a closer look at what we rarely examine in terms of the culture itself as seen through the mirror of California cinema. LaSalle gives us a bit of American history as well as anthropological insights and a totally unique set of mind-opening perceptions.

In a broader sense, Dream State is about America and the values America chooses to portray through cinema and this too, is cast with an eye to historical context, examining how events like World War II, Woodstock, and 911 have shaped what we see on the screen and how this informs and reinforces that which is permissible and that which either by production code or implication, falls beyond the pale and shifts over time.

Dream State provides unique insights on what it means to be in California and why and who has been drawn to this seemingly superficial oasis of tempting promises fulfilled, along with the implied illusions Hollywood offers that vanish when the theatre lights come back on and the credits roll.

Locals in Nevada County, watch for upcoming videos, and know that The Onyx Theatre is looking forward to seeing you very soon!

Advance purchase available through Heyday Books.

The California Field Atlas: California’s Ecology Explained and Prosaically Painted


The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufmann has been referred to as a ‘love letter to California.’ Perhaps this is not quite enough. This book is an unabashed, outspoken love letter written by someone who knows the nooks and crannies of this spectacularly diverse state and has the visual and scientific vocabulary to articulate California’s ecology.

The California Field Atlas provides a mix of geology, biology and natural history presented both factually and through beautifully expressive watercolors, calligraphy and prose—a rare view that is both humanistic and optimistic.

What it does not provide are directions, specific travel maps or any sort of guide reference. This book is for exceptional not mundane observations and as such, offers an inspirational and uniquely quirky travel companion.

If you have ever wandered into a place and wondered about how it came to be just like it is—trees, biology, landform, etc.— then perhaps The California Field Atlas might be your reference to better understand and appreciate California’s natural splendor.

The Deluxe Edition, released in November 2020, has a durable hard bound cover with gold foil seal and ribbon bookmark. Filled with maps, scientific insights and comparative county by county data, Kaufmann gives the reader much more than lovely images to absorb. Grappling with the climate crisis may best be done from an appreciative understanding of place, with a look over our shoulder to the past and a sobering concept of what science indicates for our future. Kaufmann provides both perspectives.

It goes to reason, that we protect what we love, and we love what we understand, and yes, we understand what we are taught. Obi Kaufmann’s hybrid form of art and science, co-opted under the title ‘field atlas’ surely helps us both better understand and love the rare and relatively fragile place that is California.

His publisher describes that

for Kaufmann, the epic narrative of the California backcountry holds enough art, science, mythology, and language for a hundred field atlases to come.

Track new offers at Heydaybooks.com, or coyoteandthunder.com.

Available in a deluxe hardbound edition and paperbound format

at HeyDay Books or your local bookseller.

Ellen Sargent: 2020



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This month I took some time to reflect on how much a community can do together. I assembled the photos I took over the year during “An Evening with Ellen”.

“An Evening with Ellen” limited audience prepares for ceremonial stroll to Odd Fellows Hall

“An Evening with Ellen” started with actor Mary Baird and non-profit sponsor The Famous Marching Presidents and grew and gained momentum throughout 2020…best of all, it kept me creatively engaged during 2020.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Helen Keller


Project Management & Creative Development, Community Outreach and Engagement

January-February: Writing and research, with support from Nevada County Historical Society Research Library.

March: Convert to video production.

April: Arbor Day tree planting in recognition of Ellen Clark Sargent.

May-June: Rehearsals begin. GoFundMe campaign launched.

July: Poster concept and layout.

August: Poster printing and release. Odd Fellows decorate windows on Broad Street. Video production. Famous Marching Presidents Tree Dedication Ceremony.

September: Video complete.

October: Windows on History features Odd Fellows Nineteenth Amendment windows.

December: Video edited for television and film festival format. Inclusion in Women Soaring art exhibit. Plan for educational curriculum development (2021).

Thanks to the Famous Marching Presidents, donors, and the incredible team.

Biodiversity, history, geology and a fine array of art




The Forests of California, by Obi Kaufmann, released in September 2020 by Heyday Books

Obi Kaufmann, who brought us The California Field Atlas (#1 San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller) presents another major work, The Forests of California. This is the third of six books in Kaufmann’s planned series exploring the state’s diverse environment and is the first of his planned “California Lands” trilogy.

An atlas is a collection of maps, illustrations and text. A field atlas is designed to be used in the ‘field’ as an ongoing resource, and Kaufmann gives us something rich, distinctive and fascinating. Dive in wherever you like to find a page that engages and keeps you turning more pages, or if you prefer, stop to learn more about a specific forest or tree in California. This book is not just a reference tool, but could be seen as an invitation to think differently about habitat, vegitative alliances and the hope we can hold through better understanding of our relationship to place.

Read the full review on Yubanet.com

Listen to the interview on LitQuake

Note: Perhaps the most important book I’ve read this year…full of new ways to think, explore, understand, and deepen relationships with the natural world.

Hellacious California Indeed



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Historian and scholar Gary Noy’s new book “Hellacious California: Tales of Rascality, Revelry, Dissipation, and Depravity, and the Birth of the Golden State” is now out and available for sale locally and online. Published by Heyday Books in collaboration with Sierra College Press, this 256-page book provides a rare collection of cultural references, customs, and the roiling times in California’s Gold Rush era.

Painstakingly researched and full of quips and tales as told in the late 1800’s, Noy provides a real taste of California life during the Gold Rush. For those enamored with history of the West, it is a must read.

Nevada City and Nevada County have many mentions, alongside many Sierra towns. So, whether you are perhaps wanting a few more tales about Lola Montez, Lotta Crabtree or snappy quotes from Mark Twain, look no further. Want to know the real story of Grizzly Adams or badger fighting? Here’s your book.

Sexual mores and charlatans as well as the protocol for duels, knife fights, and real mining claims are discussed in the terms of the day. Descriptions like “tableaux vivants” or a “piece of recklessness” hint at colorful language like hornswogglers, honey-foglers and humbugs in Noys’ well-organized, entertaining read.

The Source section of the book is a treasure trove for those inclined to dig still deeper in the mines of California’s colorful history, with many sources cited for each chapter.

Noy concludes after describing a great diamond hoax “This humbug was but one shard in the distinctive mosaic that was California in the nineteenth century. It was a heaven where fantasies could come true in an instant but also a hell where dreams could be unraveled in a long con.”

Get The Book

Hellacious California: Tales of Rascality, Revelry, Dissipation, and Depravity, and the Birth of the Golden State” is available at The Bookseller in Grass Valley, both in the store and curbside pick-up as well as at Harmony Books in Nevada City. Watch for author readings and events at Nevada County Historical Society and The Bookseller as well as other regional readings, including Auburn Rotary, El Dorado County Library South Shore Branch, and Sacramento—COVID-19 allowing. Purchase online at heydaybooks.com.  Paperback, 5.5” x 8.5”, 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1-59714-499-5, retails for $18. Event listings at http://www.garynoy.com/events.html

About Hellacious California

“Premier historian Gary Noy has created the finest and most entertaining compilation ever of stories documenting ‘the best bad things’ of nineteenth-century California.… Never before has this been so well told and supported by such a vast array of primary sources.”―Gary Kurutz, Director Emeritus, California History Room and Special Collections, California State Library

About Gary Noy

For those not familiar with Gary Noy, his long career includes teaching history at Sierra College from 1987 until 2012. He founded the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies and served as its director until his retirement. garynoy.com

Previous titles by Gary Noy include Sierra Stories: Tales of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots, and Rogues (Heyday, 2014), which won the Gold Medal for Best Regional Nonfiction from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, The Illuminated Landscape: A Sierra Nevada Anthology (Heyday, 2010), which he coedited, and Distant Horizon: Documents from the 19th Century American West (University of Nebraska Press, 1999).

A Silver Linings Screenplay


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Mary Baird as Ellen Sargent in “An Evening with Ellen”

In December 2019 I began what looked like a fun project of writing a one-woman performance play for the local non-profit, Famous Marching Presidents. By mid-January, the actor Mary Baird and I had compiled a good bit of research with particular help from the Nevada County Searl’s Historical Museum. Then came COVID.

The project, An Evening with Ellen, celebrates and recognizes Nevada County suffragette leader Ellen Clark Sargent to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920.

Rather than abandon our work, we suddenly had more time to dedicate to producing this performance as a video. So, in a way, there was a silver lining to COVID of offering something creative to work on, and also the time to allocate to such an undertaking.

After months of Zoom readings and script refinements, we began outdoor rehearsals in May with host/interviewer local businessman, Rick Ewald.

We were able to secure a historically significant video location with the cooperation of Nevada City’s Oddfellow Lodge. The video crew filmed during August and by September, we had a finished project to share with educators, historians, and the general public.

COVID continued to shape the destiny of this project as both the 2020 and 2021 Constitution Day Parades were canceled—each potential screening dates. Not to be dismayed, we made this video open to an expanded audience through film festivals.

Earles of Newtown, photo by Waking Crow Studio

To date, the 30-minute video An Evening with Ellen has been accepted n three film festivals, serving to inform and entertain a much broader audience than initially envisioned. The festivals which screened An Evening with Ellen are Toronto Women’s Film Festival, International Sound & Music Film Festival, and Hollywood Women-themed Film Festival. Special thanks to the incredible team that made this happen, including John Boyer’s videography and the music lent to us from Earles of Newtown.

Who knows what the next silver lining may be…

See the video on YouTube and read the full project history here.

Local Project Recognized



The 2021 Toronto Women’s Film Festival selected “An Evening with Ellen” for its monthly online viewing in May 2021—an unexpected and very pleasant surprise…

Wow! This is a nice accolade. Thank you, Toronto Women Film Festival.

The Famous Marching Presidents produced this film in 2020 to honor suffrage leader Ellen Clark Sargent.

All cast and crew are Nevada County residents. The film features actor Mary Baird and businessman Rick Ewald. The original screenplay was written and directed by Pamela Biery. Earles of Newtown generously provided the fitting music, with their original work Broad Street Suite.

View the video and learn more about Nevada County history here.

Watch for details on the upcoming Constitution Day weekend here.

An Evening with Ellen


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Mary Baird portrays suffrage leader Ellen Clark Sargent in “An Evening with Ellen”

Ellen Clark Sargent was a prominent suffrage leader and resident of Nevada City, where she founded one of the early West Coast Suffrage organizations in 1869. She worked tirelessly to secure women’s voting rights with her entire family for four decades. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in 2020, the Famous Marching Presidents produced an original play, “An Evening with Ellen,” highlighting Ellen Clark Sargent and the Nineteenth Amendment.

This original work, written by Pamela Biery, is set in an interview format. Actor Mary Baird portrays Ellen Sargent, while Nevada City businessman, Rick Ewald interviews Ellen, from a present-day perspective. Terry Boyer provides the master of ceremonies role, setting the tone for this lively interaction.

Mary Baird portrays Ellen Sargent, with present day interviewer, Rick Ewald

Nevada City California resident Ellen Clark Sargent was a close friend and ally to Susan B. Anthony. Sargent served as both treasurer and secretary of National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA); an organization founded by Susan B. Anthony. Ellen Sargent also was president of the California Woman Suffrage Association and founded the Nevada County Women Suffrage Association. She was a key figure in eventually combining East and West Coast efforts into a unified organization, which later became the League of Women Voters.

Adding to the context of this original, historically accurate work, the video was filmed at the Nevada City Odd Fellows Lodge Temple, where Aaron Sargent, who authored the Nineteenth Amendment, was a founding member in 1863.

Donate to making this project and curriculum materials available free to public, including schools here gf.me/u/x8in5b

Request a password protected link to view this video on Vimeo by emailing pamela[at]pamelab.com


Project Management & Creative Development, Community Outreach and Engagement

January-February: Writing and research, with support from Nevada County Historical Society Research Library.

March: Convert to video production.

April: Arbor Day tree planting in recognition of Ellen Clark Sargent.

May-June: Rehearsals begin. GoFundMe campaign launched.

July: Poster concept and layout.

August: Poster printing and release. Odd Fellows decorate windows on Broad Street. Video production. Famous Marching Presidents Tree Dedication Ceremony.

September: Video complete.

October: Windows on History features Odd Fellows Nineteenth Amendment windows.

December: Video edited for television and film festival format. Inclusion in Women Soaring art exhibit. Plan for educational curriculum development (2021).

Thanks to the Famous Marching Presidents, donors, and the incredible team.

Book Review: Every Day We Get More Illegal


Released over the summer of 2020, Everyday We Get More Illegal highlights social issues and the growing divide between American citizens. While this book speaks specifically to the plight of immigrants, and the current US policy, it also gives a voice to anyone who feels marginalized. “Everyday” provides pivotal insights. Herrera reminds us that words are a political tool and he uses his words powerfully, hopefully, and without softening the edges of harsh realities.

Herrera’s writing pedigree includes being named California’s poet laureate in 2012, and the U.S. poet laureate in 2015. These accolades come in addition to numerous awards and previously published works. Everyday We Get More Illegal was highly anticipated and does not disappoint.

Whether painting a word-picture through dialogue with a young son separated from his deported father, or recognizing essential workers’ constant contributions through labor—Herrera’s language penetrates the reader’s psyche, not brutally, but respectfully asking for reflection, consideration and remembrance. Herrera chronicles a lesser seen America that it is time to see, feel and make tangible.

Many poems in “Everyday” contain the rhythm of a conversation. The book is organized into poems collected under the common term for migrants, fireflies. In this case, Fireflies on the Road North.

Like most exceptional poetry and prose, these works may perhaps land on the reader’s feelings, touching on direct experience and also, giving light to scenes often acted out in the darkness of forgetting.

Address for the Firefly #6 On the Road North:

here  a river — you can stop you can bathe & rest

you can meditate on water & stones & the flow

you can note

the breath sound

of all our lives

            –Juan Felipe Herrera, from Every Day We Get More Illegal

Used with permission, Copyright 2020 City Lights Books

Every Day We Get More Illegal                                                 

Juan Felipe Herrera

City Lights, $14.95 trade paper (88p)

ISBN 978-0-87286-828-1

Release date: 07/01/2020

Hear Juan Felipe Herrera read from Every Day We Get More Illegal at LitQuake 2020