Book Review: An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl

If Jane Austen were alive today, what would she say about the contemporary world? No longer is this question idle speculation—for the great authoress herself appeared in California at the turn of the twenty-first century and wrote about what she found there. The result is An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, her modern-day Pride and Prejudice, which tells a thoroughly modern tale in Austen’s own classic prose. |It turns out she has a lot to say about the prejudices we still harbor, and about how opponents can get past their pride to achieve reconciliation.obstinate headstrong girl cover

THE PEACEFUL HAMLET of Lambtown, in central California’s ranch and vineyard country, is cast into disarray after the Bennet family appears on the scene. From Mrs. Bennet’s social climbing to her youngest children’s dissolute behavior, the newcomers provoke universal censure. Eldest daughter Lizzy, a landscaper, challenges decorum with a series of social experiments aimed at improving the lot of the Spanish-speaking poor. And her gentle brother John offends many by virtue of his romance with local entrepreneur Charlie Bingley.

Nobody is more outraged by the Bennets than thoroughbred breeder Catherine de Bourgh and her amanuensis, Morris Collins. While Collins at first imagines that Lizzy is a promising prospect, she will have none of him, attracted instead to the elusive Jorge Carrillo. Unbeknownst to Lizzy, she has also been noticed by Fitzwilliam Darcy, scion of the founding family of Lambtown. Darcy, tantalized by her spirit but disapproving of her social crusades, makes an awkward pass that is spurned. Will hearts be healed and peace return to a divided community? How will Darcy and Elizabeth move beyond their pride and prejudices to achieve lasting happiness?


THE HUMBLE AUTHOR of the volume before you finds herself much discomposed by her journey in the time travel device into which, in a moment of inattention to the niceties of comportment, she inadvertently strayed. She is even further bewildered by the world into which she has been cast; but, striving for the appearance at least of equanimity, is determined to inscribe a faithful record of all she observes. Perhaps, by continuing to be true to her nature in such an odd circumstance, she will find her way home at last.

Available through Ingram, or signed copies from

What reviewers are saying about An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl:

“I have been addicted to Jane Austen since I was eleven, and have read every sequel and modernization of her work for more decades than I care to admit to. In all that time, I have never, even remotely, found a volume that completely satisfied me. When I picked up An Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, I confess I didn’t expect much—but hope began to rise with the first, witty sentence—and by the time I had finished page 1, I was irrevocably hooked. Delicate, clever, wise, completely true to both the eigh-teenth century and the twenty-first, this book is absolute perfection. . . . A dizzying debut for a stunningly good writer.”
—Award-winning author Mary Sheldon

“I will be the first to admit, I’m not a huge Jane Austen fan, so when this book was given to me, I read the first few pages out of politeness. Let’s just say, I ended up finishing the book the next day. Not only will the modern variations from the source material delight Austen diehards, but the book gives a fascinating glimpse into the politics and passions that take place in a small central California town. The writing is divine and by the time I was a few pages in, I was totally convinced that Jane Austen had indeed written it after a mishap with a time machine.” —Rebecca Van Dusen, Amazon

“How can this modern retelling, on the one hand, be so wildly different from the original but, on the other hand, be so genuinely devoted to the portrayal of Miss Austen’s beloved characters? The prose, for one, is largely from the exquisite Regency style . . . elegant, complex, and lofty. To be able to combine the venue of this modern story with the authenticity of the original characters into a story with such compelling contemporary political/social issues is a testament to the author’s creative abilities. . . . If the prospective reader of this tale had never heard of Jane Austen, the story would still stand confidently on its own with the compelling urgency of both personal and community conflicts, how they unfold in their complexity, and the beautiful way in which the author seeks to resolve them. Indeed it had me examining my own prejudices on the social/political issues presented. This remarkable story deserves more exposure and I hope you will find a place for it in your stack of
must-reads.” —Jeffrey Ward, Goodreads and Austenprose reviewer

For more information or for signed copies, visit

David Ovelowo in “Selma”

Like most Americans, I suspect, I have been only peripherally aware of the events that took place in March 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King led three historic (and very dangerous) voting rights marches from Selma, Alabama to the Alabama state capital, Montgomery. I understood the importance of the march, and (vaguely, I admit) what it accomplished, but I didn’t know the real story—the challenges, the terror, the resistance, and the implications—of this seminal cultural and political showdown. Director Ava DuVernay brings the truth to the fore in her new film Selma, the best film yet to focus on Dr. King and his iconic role in the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60s.flick

Actor David Oyelowo, who portrays King in Selma, has given us a performance for the ages, and one likely to be recognized when Oscar announces the Best Actor nods in January. Oyelowo, a (still-young) veteran of the British stage, brings a deep humanity and vulnerability to the character of King, showing us the man beneath the mythology, and, in turn, further heightening our respect and admiration for the heroic cultural leader.

I sat down with Oyelowo in San Francisco recently, and we talked about the timeless message of Selma, the immense challenge of stepping into Martin Luther King’s shoes, and the years of struggle to finally bring this film to the public.

Oyelowo explained how the triumph of Selma is underscored by the fact that it took years of struggle and commitment to even get the film made. He had been attached to the project early on, and remained committed and focused on his dream of playing King throughout the long development process. He recalled: “It was a seven year journey of disappointment, frustration, anticipation, and excitement to get this off the ground. The blessing in disguise of all that waiting was that I knew, somewhere in my spirit, that it was my destiny to do this role. I watched everything I could in terms of documentary film, I read books, talked with people who knew him, and spent time with his family. I went to where he was born, and where he died. Once it became time to actually create the film, there was weight gain that needed to take place—a physical assimilation—and what I can only describe as spiritual work. This man was governed by his spiritual life and conviction, and I felt I needed to really open myself up in order to show that.”

With his theatrical background and oratorical skills, Oyelowo came well-prepared to capture King’s legendary speaking voice, but he also had to find the source of commitment and belief that made truly King inspirational. “The thing is that there was a difference between King in the pulpit, or at a podium, and him just talking to someone in, say, a corridor He was taken up, there was something transcendent in him. The question was what was going on with this man internally to get him to this heightened place where he is able to move thousands—millions—of people by the power of his words. That was an intimidating prospect, but one I felt I needed to get my arms around.”

I mentioned Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, in which Oyelowo had a small, but very poignant, role, especially when considered in the same context as Selma. He described his connection between the two films: “I have a scene with Colman Domingo—who plays Ralph Abernathy in Selma—we both stood before Daniel Day Lewis, and I say to him, ‘maybe one day we’ll get the vote.’ That was the winter of 1865. In Selma, there is a scene where I am sitting next to Colman Domingo and I am brooding over the fact of whether or not we will actually get the vote. And that’s 1965. Same actors, 100 years apart. It beautifully crystallizes how long the process towards freedom has been for people of color in this country.”

I expressed that I thought Selma brought a depth to our understanding of Martin Luther King that might have been lost in a three-hour biopic, and Oyelowo agreed, adding: “The genius of the script by Paul Webb and Ava DuVernay was to focus in on just those three months, because to tell such a full rich life, one that has so many chapters, you may end up with an unsatisfactory film that just touched on the elements of his big life. This film really mines what was going on in the internal life of King and those involved in the movement. And that is what we look for in movies. We are looking for ourselves. You ask yourself, ‘If I were him, what would I do?’ Selma demystifies, but at the same time further elevates, the beauty of the man.”

It’s so true. I was moved to tears by Selma. It is a great American film with a timeless message. As we celebrate the holiday season, and share that feeling of equality that feels so natural during the holidays, I hope we come to understand that we really can treat each other this way every day of the year.

Patriarchs of Alta California: Sunol and Amador

My curiosity was piqued recently when I pulled an antique leather-bound book from my library shelf. I had purchased the liturgical Latin Missale Romanum altar prayer book in the late 1960s as part of St Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s church libraries.
The weighty missal’s leather cover is gold-embossed: “IN MEMORIAM JOSEPHINE SUNOL –1906”. As I ran my fingers over the inscription I wondered if Josephine’s family may have donated the missal in memory of a Don Senor Antonio Sunol descendant. Research soon revealed that Josephine Sunol was indeed the granddaughter of Alta California land grantees; Jose Joaquin Bernal and Antonio Sunol for whom the town of Sunol is sunol

Research connected the Sunol family to the original St. Joseph’s Church and San Jose historic archives revealed that Antonio Sunol had donated land and funded the building of St Joseph’s first church in 1835, then known as San Jose de Guadalupe. The historic landmark church, since rebuilt and renovated, was designated a cathedral basilica in 1997 by Pope John Paul.

With nothing tangible to go on, but the name Josephine Sunol, I soon discovered she was a St Joseph parishioner when she occupied her grandfather’s adobe in the 1880s at 243 Guadalupe Street, now Market Street. Old directories indicated other Sunol family members lived at 189 Delmas Street, a stone’s throw away.

The adobe on Guadalupe Street was once part of a Mexican land grant where the present Roberto-Sunol Adobe National Landmark stands at 770 Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen. After renovation, San Jose Historian the Honorable Judge Paul Bernal guided its donation to California Pioneers of Santa Clara County.

When Josephine Sunol’s Guadalupe adobe home was demolished in the mid-20th century, the rancho land later became the sites of the Civic Auditorium, Centre for Performing Arts, and an office complex. As Josephine Sunol’s backstory unfolded, I discovered how she fit into San Jose’s early history, and her connection to Bernal, Sunol and Amador Mexican land grantees; Alta California pioneers of the post-New Spain era. Excitement soared as internet sleuthing got underway.

According to the 1860 San Jose Census, widower Antonio Sunol, 65-year old gentleman, lived at the 243 Guadalupe Street adobe with his children after he sold the Roberto-Sunol Adobe to a Dalmatian sea captain.

And an Alameda County 1880 census shows farmer Jose Narcisio Sunol, born 10 June 1835, and wife Rosario Palomares (daughter of Pacheco land grantee), had six children including 6-year old Josephine and Juanita, born 1874. They were twins!
When I found Josephine Sunol’s significant historic connection to my own book, I delved into the lives of her grandfathers, Don Senor Jose Joaquin Bernal and Don Senor Antonio Maria Sunol. Bernal, a soldier in the 1775 De Anza Expedition, was granted 64,000 acres in 1839 from San Jose to Santa Teresa north of Morgan Hill.

Sunol, Spaniard-turned-Californio, married Bernal’s daughter Dolores which added to his riches. He was a ranchero, orchardist, cattleman, mayor and philanthropist. And was brother-in-law to fellow ranchero Jose Maria Amador owner of Rancho San Ramon, who married 16-year old Magdalena Maria Trinidad Bernal in 1818 thus forging powerful alliances.
My in-depth sleuthing revealed that the largest landowners in Alta California; Bernal, Amador and Sunol were all intrinsically linked by their vast estates that spanned from Santa Teresa to the golden hills of San Ramon until statehood in 1850 when newcomer “Americanos” finagled the rules of land grant ownership.

Antonio Sunol, born in Barcelona in 1797 to afrancasado parents, (close ties to France) was educated in Bordeaux. After the Royal House of Bourbon fell, he joined Napoleon’s French Navy. Rumor has it that Sunol was present when Napoleon surrendered and was exiled to St Helena. Later Sunol sailed on the “Bordelaise” around Cape Horn to California. The 20-year old adventurer jumped ship at Yerba Buena, San Francisco, on 15th August 1817. The intrepid sailor made his way sixty miles on horseback to Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe, governed then by Sargente Luis Maria Peralta of the Spanish Army whose original adobe still stands at 184 West St John Street, San Jose.

Sunol, Spanish entrepreneur-trader, travelled over the valleys selling leather hides, tallow candles and precious lace. This may have been when Sunol crossed paths with Jose Maria Amador and wife Magdalena Bernal Amador. After rotating out of the Mexican Army in 1827, Amador was granted a 4,400-acre rancho that spanned from Mission San Jose to San Ramon Valley as far as the eye could see.

It was just a matter of time before Sunol too became owner of a large rancho. The 2,219-acre Rancho de los Coches on Los Gatos Creek in San Jose belonged to Mission Indian Roberto Balermino. Roberto owed Sunol $500 and paid the debt in 1847 by deeding his rancho and adobe.

Sunol purchased 500 horses, 5,000 sheep and 10,000 head of cattle. He sold hides, leather goods and saddles. He built a brick house adjacent to Roberto’s Adobe where he proudly flew three flags; Spanish, French and Mexican. He opened San Jose’s first mercantile store; sold calico, furs, brandy, wine, wool serapes and blankets, kerchiefs at $16 a dozen, and lariats. He cultivated wine grapes and a superabundance of peaches, pears, oranges and figs. He cooked meat and bread in the clay oven outside Roberto’s Adobe.

Don Antonio, an educated man, could read and write Spanish, French and English. Known for gracious hospitality, the gallant Spaniard held fiestas, caballeros played guitars, guests danced fandangos, people played monte card games, and ex-soldiers shared war stories about fighting Indians. Landowners Bernal and Amador were linked by their Mexican military service; Sargente Bernal was part of the 1776 De Anza Expedition and Pedro Amador, Jose Maria’s father, had been with Portola’s 1769 Overland Expedition who said upon retirement, “The only compensation I got for 18 years of service was 14 Indian arrows in my body.”

When Spain missionized Alta California with twenty-one religious and military outposts on Camino Real, soldiers manned them to support the priests’ work with the Indians. By the 1830s the missions were secularized and large ranchos were granted to ex-soldiers. Senor Amador married 16-year old Magdalena Bernal on May 28, 1818, and Sunol married her sister Maria de los Dolores Bernal at Santa Clara Mission Church on November 7, 1823.

Legend has it that weddings lasted three days. Young brides sat side-saddle in front of a family member, silk slippers golden braid-entwined, and rode in procession through tree-lined avenues to Santa Clara Mission Church. Serenade music escorted cavalcades of caparisoned horses for grooms and brides to unite their influential families in blissful marriages. These intra-family marriages forged enduring alliances between the Bernal, Amador and Sunol clans—the three most powerful ranchero families in the valley whose vast lands reached from south San Jose Santa Teresa to present-day Dublin and deep into the San Ramon Valley.

Amador outlived three wives and had 22 children. He married his beloved 16-year old Magdalena Bernal who died during childbirth after having 5 children by age 25. Jose Maria died June 12, 1883 and is buried at St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Gilroy; his tombstone stands a few yards from my own mother’s grave. With such a large family I deducted that Jose Maria Amador must have had many local descendants. I had to look no further than my own circle of friends. Fellow Friends of Blackhawk Museum, Jill Brennan, told me that her husband Bob possessed impeccable Amador descendants’ genealogies.

I met with longtime resident Robert John Brennan at his Danville home. His drafting table was strewn with pedigree charts, vintage photographs, and history books confirming his auspicious Amador roots. Bob Brennan is the great-great-grandson of Jose Maria Amador and Magdalena Bernal Amador, once owners of the historic San Ramon Mission Rancho and Mission El Valle de San Jose Rancho. “We are very proud of our heritage.” Bob said, showing me charts of the Hispano-Mexican pioneers and photographs of the Amador descendants.

Jose Maria Amador, whose name aptly translates to ‘gold lover’, had beaten the 1849 Gold Rush by mining in early 1848 with brother-in-law, presumed to be Antonio Sunol, who also wrote of finding gold near John Sutter’s sawmill. Amador returned from the camp (now Amador County) with 114 pounds of gold nuggets in coffee cans. He wrote that he shared the golden yield with Indians and family, and gave the rest to the church for chalices. Eureka!

As Bernal descendants, Maria Dolores Bernal Sunol and Magdalena Bernal Amador inherited half of a 64,000-acre parcel around Mission San Jose. Antonio and Maria Dolores Sunol had several children; Jose Antonio, Jose Narcisio, Jose Dolores, Josepha, Antonia, Francisca, Incarnacion, and Paula who married Frenchman Pierre Sansevain, San Jose’s first vintner.

A glimpse into history tells of Hispano-Mexicans before California entered statehood in 1850. When gold was first discovered in 1848 near Sacramento on the American River banks near John Sutter’s sawmill, Sunol rushed there with Amador and some Indians. John Sutter had bought cattle from Sunol and paid the debt with a land parcel near Sacramento.
Sunol returned to San Jose with about $3 million worth of gold nuggets which he shared with Indians and split with family to play the monte card game.

The Gold Rush and subsequent Land Rush were historic turning points for Alta California. The Spanish had once forged frontiers from St Augustine, Florida all the way to San Francisco where un-scarred pristine lands were belted by forests of redwoods, heritage oaks, and alamo cottonwoods that ran along rivers. Rolling hills were ornamented by purple needle-grass, and luscious wild oats grew as tall as a bull’s horns, clusters of wild azalea, poppies, and thickets of huckleberry carpeted ravines where no men had yet tread. Wanderers and Ohlone Indians bivouacked on open plains or near rivers’ fording places where bears spooked their horses. Vaquero cowboys lassoed groaning cattle and rode herds in canadas through steep arroyos to faraway markets.

After the Mexican-American War, over 100,000 Californios reluctantly yielded to statehood in 1850 becoming the Union’s 31st state. Gold Rush opportunities enticed the largest western-bound migration in human history. Westward wagon trains carried thousands of trekkers a day. Some eastern speculating interlopers became unlawful squatters, gunslingers, horse thieves, and cattle rustlers. Many grabbed rancho lands, panned rivers, built cabins on private property and dynamited outcrops.

New State laws allowed squatters to pre-empt the rancho lands that had not yet been confirmed under previous Mexican Land Grants. Most parcels had been allocated to ex-military servicemen with charts and the watertight integrity of a handshake. Jose Maria Amador sold off his land parcels in 1850 and, some say may have died a pauper after paying exorbitant legal fees. Many “American” interlopers sequestered parcels of Hispano-Mexican ranchos and wanton bandits forged their names into history.
Notorious cattle rustler and monte card dealer, Joaquin Murrieta from Mexico, was one of the most famous desperados. His gang raided mining camps, stole gold from prospectors and rancheros in the Sunol hills and Livermore Valley. Murrieta’s Well Winery on Mine Road in Livermore is named for the desperado who has since gained folk hero status. It is said that the bandit’s head, preserved in a jar of brandy, travelled around California and could be viewed for a dollar. And newcomer land grabbing squatters and interlopers made big trouble for rancheros. It was only a matter of time that disaster would strike the Sunol family.

While Sunol’s son, Jose Antonio was tending to 25,000 heads of cattle on the 48,000-acre El Valle de San Jose Rancho, 15 miles north of Pueblo de San Jose, now Niles-Fremont-Sunol, an argument broke out with squatter John Wilson. After Wilson had killed several animals, Jose Antonio approached on horseback, “If you want meat I will give you all the meat you can eat, just don’t kill our cattle.” Wilson aimed his rifle and shot Jose Antonio dead. It was March 7, 1855. Wilson escaped, was never brought to justice.

The murder of Sunol’s oldest son was a devastating blow to all ranchero families. Jose Narcisio, brother to Antonio, moved to the El Valle San Jose Rancho. He married Rosario Palomares in March 1858. These were Josephine Sunol’s parents.
There were other relatives with interesting stories. I found an online legal document stating that 19-year old Narcisio M. Sunol, born in 1853 two years before Jose Antonio’s murder, was admitted to Stockton Insane Asylum in 1872 by Cristobal Palomares (Rosario’s brother?) for reason of insanity. Could this asylum inmate, who died of consumption five years later, have been orphan son of Jose Antonio who was murdered by the squatter in 1855? The plot thickens.

Don Antonio Sunol, devastated by his son’s death, drew up a last will and testament naming his children and future heirs to his vast fortune, including not-yet-born granddaughter Josephine Sunol. His beloved wife Maria Dolores Bernal Sunol had died in 1845, and Antonio died on the Feast of St Joseph, March 19, 1865 at his Guadalupe Street adobe home.
The Spaniard of noble birth had not only mingled with Emperor Napoleon, but also with Bernal, Amador, John C. Fremont, Thomas O. Larkin, John Sutter, John Gilroy, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo of Petaluma, and Roberto Livermore all of whom left indelible marks on Northern California.

The near-forgotten legacies of Jose Maria Amador still lives through Amador County and San Ramon Valley that he named for his mother Ramona, and Antonio Sunol still lives through Sunol Valley and the historic town named for him. Sunolians value their small town atmosphere and strive to keep it intact. Sunol gained an odd sort of tongue-in-cheek fame when Bosco, a Re-pup-lican dog was elected town mayor on a lark in the 1990s. Communist China even commented on America’s canine democracy.

And today when irate I-680 commuters are idling on the highway from Silicon Valley to San Ramon, Senor Antonio Sunol’s memory comes alive all too vividly on the bottle-necked Sunol Grade.

Sunol Valley also shares some pre-Hollywood film history where it once attracted moviemakers to Niles Canyon. Curly-kop Mary Pickford posed near Warm Springs, and iconic Charlie Chaplin filmed “The Tramp” years before Hollywood became filmdom’s epicentre.

Today tourists visit Livermore Valley’s superb wine region and historic Niles Railroad Museum. Visitors ride the Niles Canyon Railway steam train that meanders through canyons where bands of Ohlone Tribes lived 5,000 years ago.
Today heritage oaks, sycamores and alamo cottonwoods spread dappled shade across rail tracks or reach for the sun. Lush valleys, yellow-crisp in summer, still echo where caballeros serenaded, and cattle once roamed along Canada de la Tasagera, now Camino Tassajara.

Slow trains carry riders from Niles, not only through the canyon, but back in time where once proud Hispano-Mexican pioneers, like Jason’s Argonauts, forged a forever history in California’s own El Dorado golden hills.
Again I touch the book’s embossed dedication; “In Memoriam Josephine Sunol—1906”. Now I know Josephine’s story. Her grandfathers, Jose Bernal and Don Antonio Sunol, together with Jose Maria Amador, forged history in the Santa Clara and San Ramon Valleys.

Josephine’s grandmother was Dolores Bernal Sunol; aunt was Magdalena Bernal Amador. And maybe unbeknownst to some readers until my ALIVE Magazine revelation, Bob Brennan is also Josephine Sunol’s distant cousin. And his great-great-great grandfather Jose Joaquin Bernal was a member of the De Anza Expedition.
Josephine’s grandparents, Antonio and Dolores Sunol, were godparents on July 26, 1825 to Jose Amador’s son Jose Antonio,

Brennan’s great grandfather, at Mission Santa Clara. And it was Josephine’s uncle Jose Antonio Sunol who died at Rancho El Valle de San Jose at the hands of a renegade squatter in 1855.

And now as I return my old mass book back to its place of honor on my library shelf, I know the rest of Josephine Sunol’s once-secret story.

The Gift of Me: Another Interview with Myself

Here I am again, at the home of author Mike Copeland on the eve of the release of his second book, Alive and Chillin’ – More Sideways Views and Do You Know Who’s. Given that his first book, Alive and Kickin’ – Sideways Views From an Upright Guy only sold about 23 copies, I can’t imagine that this is terribly exciting news to anyone other than Mr. Copeland, and perhaps Eric Johnson, his editor at ALIVE Magazine, who also happens to be the President of ALIVE Book Publishing. ALIVE is the company distributing Mr. Copeland’s latest birdcage lining.

As the doorbell rings, I can only hope that the subject of this piece is asleep, not home or possibly even incarcerated. Alas, no such luck. Once Mike eventually does get around to finally opening the door, he gestures me in without speaking. His silence is odd given his narcissistic nature. I’m led into the same den/man cave that we met in almost two and a half years ago just prior to the release of his first book. The first book was panned by critics, but the pages made for wonderful padding in our dog’s crate right before she delivered her litter of puppies. By the scent in the room, Mr. Copeland has apparently given us drinking (Rebel Yell Bourbon) in favor of medicinal marijuana (San Simeon is my educated guess). I’m still not sure how I drew the short straw when it came to our monthly assignments at ALIVE Magazine, but not every pull of the slot machine is a jackpot.copeland

MC: Thank you for having me to your home again Mike. How is this night different from where we were two years ago?

Mike: Please, call me Mr. Copeland. Well for one, it’s December, 2014 not July, 2012 so it’s colder. As an author, I’d like to think that I’m more worldly and mature. Not to mention, a much bigger celebrity in the Tri Valley. I did so many, three or four, book signings, that my name has become much more recognized in literary circles and book store restrooms. I’m huge at Art and Wine festivals along the I-680 corridor and Central Valley Blog conventions. So to answer your question….What was your question? Oh, I think it’s just different because it is. Next question.

MC: What makes you think that this book will sell better than your first book? It’s pretty competitive out there and your first effort didn’t set the world on fire.

Mike: Can you say, Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad, Happy Hanukkah, it’s Kwanza Baby! Tis the season to be jolly and since it’s better to give than to receive what better way to say “I love you,” “I care about you,” or “quit annoying me,” than by giving the gift that keeps on giving? The holidays are a great time to release a book, because people are shopping for suitable gifts. My new book is a thrilling and provocative, OK – maybe more light-hearted and somewhat entertaining, non-fiction toilet tank distraction that is needed in this world. It was also written by someone people in this area know and love: Me! I’ll even sign it for you if you come by my house.

MC: How do you plan to market the new book differently than the first book?

Mike: Few people know that my first book actually sold over 500 copies, thank you very much. It’s probably safe to say that there’s a lot of buzz for my latest Pulitzer submission. I have a catchy title, right, so that will catch some eyes? See how I did that, using “catch” twice. Plus, there’s this new thing called Amazon and it’s not the river in Egypt. Secretly, I hope we can count on Santa to place a big order. He’s even bigger than Amazon when you think about it.

MC: How is this book, Alive and chillin’ similar or different from your first book, Alive and kickin’?

Mike: In my first book, I was kickin’ and in this book I’m chillin’. You’re not very observant are you? My first book was only humor lifestyle material from my first six years with ALVIE Magazine. This book is a collection of roughly 25 humor lifestyle essays from the last two years, along with over 25 personality profiles dating back to 2008. I’ve also included a few community-oriented pieces. That is some good sh……. Stuff.

MC: You chose to work with Eric Johnson at ALIVE Book Publishing again. How was that experience?

Mike: EJ knows me. Because of our history, he focuses on what buttons to push to bring out my brilliance. E. Johnny works with his authors in a kind and gentle, yet stern and firm manner, depending on the mood of his talent. Personally, I like to be coddled. Eazy Jezzy knows that I also do my best work in my pajamas and Crocs while wearing my lucky fedora. That attire might be frowned upon on at some of the reputable publishing houses, but not at ALIVE world headquarters. If I’m hungry, there’s Cup-0-Noodles, if I’m thirsty, there’s Kool-Aid, and if I’m backed-up (creatively) there’s medicinal incense. I respect that Lord Eric of Johnsonville works hard and leads by example.

MC: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

Mike: Few people know that I’m an uncertified professional ballroom dancer; a sock puppet ventriloquist and I have narcolepsy. Needless to say, my days are pretty full. I’ve also been known to smuggle exotic reptiles into the country, but don’t say anything to anyone because I’m already on the TSA’s “No-Fly List.”

MC: You’ve always proclaimed yourself to be exceptionally witty and glib with a self-deprecating style of humor, who challenges you to be your best? Where do you draw inspiration?

Mike: OMG, stop flirting with me. The key to my success has been to surround myself with people more creative and intelligent than myself. At home, my wife and daughters contently needle and ridicule me so I need to be on my “A” game at all times. I’m intellectually stimulated and challenged by certain, but not all, of my guy friends (Rob, Stan, and Tom – you know who you are). I also communicate telepathically with local comedian, David Vanavermaete. He is one talented and very funny dude. Additionally, Giants broadcasters, Mike Krukow and Duane Kieper educate and entertain me from early March through late October. I don’t actually know them, but if I ever transition to radio, they would be my mentors. Finally, I’m a big fan of the television show, Modern Family. The writing is unappalled and that Cam is a hoot. I would say I draw inspiration from all my surroundings. You might say, I’m a student of Planet Earth University. Too bad I can’t find a PEU hoodie.

MC: Off topic, but didn’t I hear that you were recently involved in a traffic altercation?

Mike: Yes, your muckraking is correct. It was at Bagel Street Café in the Mercantile Livery and I graciously offered to sign someone’s November issue of ALIVE magazine. When that person didn’t appreciate my generous offer, I may have accidently bumped my forehead on hers. I’m embarrassed to admit that the incident was a case of “Roid Rage” Hemorrhoids not steroids. When those things flare up, I get awfully cantankerous. I don’t have any scientific evidence; however I’m relatively certain that Dr. David Banner’s Hulk episodes were the direct result of hemorrhoids. But I digress, fortunately the alleged victim and I settled out of court—the bocce ball court.

MC: Do you have any book signings or public appearances planned for your latest Toilet Tank offering?

Mike: As a first time author back in 2012, the ALIVE PR department booked me at every Rotary Club breakfast, Chamber of Commerce Mixer and Cabi Show in a ten-mile radius. Add to that, we did our share of Stella & Dot parties, Scout jamborees and Senior Center blood drives. My favorite public appearance was a Tinder meet and greet. As for bookstore signings, I had my biggest night at Read in Blackhawk Plaza. There must have been a crowd of six or seven people and at least half of them were there to support me, or use the restroom. I expect this time will be more of the same. Good times.

MC: When do you hit the road?

Mike: Tonight. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave now. I’m serious.

As I thanked Mike for his time, he awkwardly asked me if I stole anything while visiting his house. It almost felt like he was frisking me when he gave me a “bro” hug as I was departing. Like I stated at the end of my first profile piece on Mr. Copeland back in the summer of 2012, for an odd fellow he does possess some talent. I actually enjoyed most of his offerings in his new book and found the content somewhat therapeutic while doing my business in the bathroom. I do feel compelled to support our local talent and hope the readers will do the same. Good luck Mike.

For more information on Mike Copeland’s new book, Alive and Chillin’ – More Sidways Views and Do You Know Who’s contact the Alive Media office in Alamo.

The Parallel Road

This past September, my column was entitled Choose Life. At the time, I assumed I would receive the standard portion of negative feedback from readers—after all, I had crossed the “PC” line in that piece (as I often do) by mentioning God and quoting scripture. To my surprise, my estimations were way off, as I received a good number of positive comments and not a single negative one.pubmessage

And so, with that approving re-enforcement (my sincere “thank you” to all who responded) I shall venture a little farther down a parallel road…

With Christmas just a few days away and the end of 2014 fast approaching, it is inevitable for me, as it is for many, that my mind begins a process of reflection. I think of the year passing; of events and people and relationships.

My thoughts include the discouraging and negative experiences too, but not in a negative way. Indeed, I become excited about the blessing that each new year presents, as we are once again afforded another opportunity to “get it right.” The advent of 2015 brings nothing but possibilities, as it is (always) up to us, and the mistakes, wrongs and destructiveness of the past year are all just that—past.

I am always mindful of the fact that so much of our strife is born of fear; the seed of negativity and destructive behavior—the seed of evil itself. But fear cannot exist in the presence of its opposite—love.

And so, this holiday season, my wish for you—for us all—is that we have the wisdom to choose life… and love. That we reject fear and look for the good in each other; that we seek to understand; that we rejoice in our potential and seize the opportunity and blessing that lies ahead.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Phil 4:8-9 (KJV)

Book Review: Shabaikai

Bill E. Clarkson’s first full length novel, Shabaikai, is a riveting page turner. Shabaikai gets its title from the river, Shabaikai, that runs along the Bohemian Grove. It is at the historical Bohemian Men’s Club that the story all ties together. Just as the river has unexpected twists and turns, so does Clarkson’s novel. Shabaikai cover

The story begins in the teen years of two very different people; Guido, an Italian immigrant, and Jesse, a well off young man born into a wealthy Californian family. Shabaikai takes readers on a journey through both of the young men’s lives. Clarkson masterfully leads readers through the men’s stories with alternating chapters. This is effective because readers see the contrasts and similarities between the two men’s experiences more clearly.

While Jesse and Guido never meet, their children do and quickly build a family of their own together. Anna, Jesse’s daughter, and Joseph, Guido’s son, make a happy and successful home until tragedy strikes. As a result of this horrible tragedy, Jesse takes his grandchild, Joseph and Anna’s son. He raises his grandson and feeds him nothing but lies while Joseph tries to get his family back on their feet. Joseph later finds out about all the lies his son has been taught but isn’t allowed to be reunited with him. Joseph’s life takes even more unexpected turns as he reunites with Guido.

Shabaikai is a historical drama that will keep you enthralled until the very last page. Clarkson gives readers a glimpse of what early 20th century America was like including the violence and organized crime that came with prohibition. Clarkson does a great job representing each social class and how they were affected by prohibition, the creation of the auto industry, and crime.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learning about the history of Northern California along the way. I found this book to be quite inspirational as characters work their way up the social ladder. Shabaikai is also an intense drama that kept me interested and wanting more. Not only do I suggest reading Clarkson’s novel, Shabaikai, I also suggest putting time aside to read it because you won’t be able to put it down.

Get a Grip on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is pressure on the median nerve — the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers. The median nerve provides feeling and movement to the “thumb side” of the hand (the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and thumb side of the ring finger). The area in your wrist where the nerve enters the hand is called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is normally narrow, so any swelling can pinch the nerve and cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.

Causes and risk factors
Carpal tunnel syndrome is common in people who perform repetitive motions of the hand and wrist. Typing on a computer keyboard and using a mouse are the most common causes of carpal tunnel. Other causes include:
• Driving
• Assembly line work
• Painting
• Writing
• Use of tools (especially hand tools or tools that vibrate)
• Sports such as racquetball or handball
• Playing some musical instruments

A number of medical conditions are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, including:
• Chronic Inflammatory Conditions
• Bone fractures and arthritis of the wrist
• Diabetes
• Alcoholism
• Hypothyroidism
• Menopause, PMS and Pregnancy
• Infections
• Obesity

• Numbness or tingling in the thumb and next two or three fingers of hands
• Numbness or tingling in the palm of the hand
• Pain extending from the elbow
• Pain in wrist or hand in one or both hands
• Problems with fine finger movements (coordination) in one or both hands
• Wasting away of the muscle under the thumb (in advanced or long-term cases)
• Weak grip or difficulty carrying bags or opening a jar (a common complaint)
• Weakness in one or both hands

Class IV Laser Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Up until recently the most common treatment for Carpal Tunnel has been the use of anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, wrist splinting, and surgery. These treatments do not treat the cause, only the symptoms and are not always effective long-term.
Now, however, we have a powerful, effective, non-invasive solution to reverse the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Ending the symptoms caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome requires stopping the cycle of inflammation at its source. Class IV laser therapy is an excellent method for this, because it is presently the only modality that can both reduce inflammation and heal tissue simultaneously. Laser treatments at Align Healing Center are done with the K-laser 1200 a Class IV Laser. This laser does not cut or burn but is gently absorbed by the tissue. During Laser Therapy the infrared laser light interacts with tissues at the cellular level, increasing metabolic activity and improving the transport of nutrients across the cell membrane. This initiates the production of cellular energy (ATP) that leads to a cascade of beneficial effects, increasing cellular function and health. Therefore, laser therapy creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. As the injured area returns to normal, function and strength are restored and pain is relieved.

Relief is Possible!
At Align Healing Center we are having great success treating carpal tunnel, plantar fasciitis, sciatica, shoulder and neck pain, migraines, arthritis, tendonitis, post surgical pain, sports injuries and more; even if it’s long-term residual pain. Ar¬thritis and degenerative disc disease sufferers can see long term benefits from this treatment without any of the negative side effects experienced with the long term use of medications.

Dr. Niele Maimone, DC is the owner and founder of Align Healing Center in Danville, CA. She has been active in our natural health & wellness community since 1999. For more information or to set up a consult call 925.362.8283 or visit

Redwoods & Christmas Cactus

Q. We have a huge problem with the leaves from a Redwood tree in our garden. We cleared away most of the debris. Would the acidity of the remaining debris prevent anything else we plant from thriving? We’re thinking about installing turf next spring.

A. The debris from the Redwood trees shouldn’t inhibit plants so I wouldn’t be concerned about the acidity. Acid soil from conifers such as junipers, pines, cedars, and redwood is a long standing gardening myth. There may be a concern if you’re using well water or water from the Delta but not from EBMUD and the concern would not be acid soil but alkaline soil. You can always check on the conditions with a simple pH kit. You should take three of four tests and then average the results from dry soil. To avoid contaminating the samples, you should use a plastic, not metal, trowel and the soil should be semi-dry. One other point takes the sample from one to two inches below the soil surface and from different areas. With wet soil you should scoop some out and let it dry out in the garage before running the tests.

My biggest concern about growing under Redwood trees is the amount of light the plants or turf will receive. Redwoods are large, fast-growing trees with a dense canopy. Whatever their size is today, they will be even larger tomorrow. In a short period of time, they will be huge. The larger the canopy, the shadier the conditions under the tree. While we see grass growing under Redwoods in lots of situations, it may not be appropriate in your location. Grass, even the shady blends, require a minimum of four hours of filtered to direct sunlight, April through October. As the light intensity is reduced, grass thins out. Another concern will be the surface roots, as Redwoods are shallow rooted but like lots of moisture. Your irrigation system should separate the areas under the tree from the rest of the landscape. As the area becomes shadier, it will require less water than the sunnier areas. You’re the best judge of your location but growing under Redwoods can be challenging.

Q. I want to transplant my blooming Christmas Cactus into another pot, but I’m scared to touch it. Can I move a blooming plant to another pot without shocking it?dirt

A. It’s okay to transplant a Christmas Cactus and most other plants while they are in bloom. Actually, this is when an evergreen plant is technically dormant, as it’s not actively growing. There is no reason why you have to wait until it finishes flowering. I’d transplant it carefully as not to damage the flowers.

Christmas Cactus is also known as the Zygocactus or crab cactus because of their segmented leaves. They, along with Cyclamen, are a great red and white alternative to poinsettia during the holiday season. Zygocactus and Cyclamen are not sensitive to warm rooms, as is a Poinsettia, so the foliage doesn’t discolor quickly and they have a long blooming period.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at

Healthcare Providers Must Change!

When one completes medical school, upon graduation he or she should never feel they have all the knowledge they need, but just enough to be able to learn. Science has not touched the incredibly vast amount of information we have yet to learn.

In my research in Physiology I find it impossible to keep up with the new findings that will, someday, make many present medical practices obsolete. I have just begun working with a group involved in the study of the effects of electromagnetic fields on cellular and neurological communication. Not only could this work help explain the mystery of acupuncture, but may possibly open up entirely new fields of medicine and a greater understanding of many mysteries, such as autoimmune diseases and mental disorders.

In November’s Alive article the importance of cellular communication was suggested as part of a healthy immune system. Three physiologists received the Nobel Prize, just last year, for their discoveries in cellular communication. The work I mentioned on electromagnetic effects on cellular communication dovetails right in.

One more example of these new findings is that there are more functions of the Thyroid Gland than we knew. It also is a large contributor to the immune system. I am not trying to confuse you with too much information. I am just trying to demonstrate that the era of giving a blood test followed by a prescription to mask the condition will someday disappear. We are learning to identify some of the underlying factors which cause symptoms that “modern medicine” has been calling diseases only treatable by drugs such as: Crohn’s disease, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, and many more.

The best acupuncturists can feel your radial pulse and diagnose malfunctioning organs and diseases. Is this due to their incredible sensitivity to electromagnetic fields? No one has been able to explain it yet.

There are trillions of cellular activities going on at any one time in your body; far more complex than any industry, and we all understand the effects poor communication can have on any industry, easily resulting in its death. If our cells aren’t supplied with the nutrients they need or are subjected to toxins or invaders, their ability to function at all, including communicate, can be severely jeopardized. Some drugs have actually been found to interfere with cellular communication, which explains some of the serious side effects.

Now that you have some knowledge of how complex the process of keeping you well is, maybe you’ll have more reason to discipline your eating habits and lifestyle. Complex carbohydrates help cellular communication, while simple carbohydrates interfere, actually creating increased inflammatory responses requiring the need for even better communication. In my TMJ practice, to the extent that the patient is proactive in changing their lifestyle and dietary habits that created the problem, the results are remarkable. I recently dismissed a lady in her fifties that exclaimed she had not felt so good since her twenties. She was emphatic in stating she would never go back to her old ways. By the way, these patients will never have to worry about their weight.

If you belong to an organization that would enjoy learning about these remarkable practices, please feel free to contact me at or 925 837-8048.

Have a beautiful and healthy Holliday Season.

Much Ado About Memory, Part II: 8 Ways to Increase Your Memory

Last month I discussed some of the theories of memory and why we need to be free from the chains of inflammation and stress to have a healthy functioning brain. Now we’ll talk about how we can improve and optimize our memory.

First of all, the brain is so complex that known facts like “there are 800 miles of wires in one half inch of brain tissue” are hard to comprehend. Yet these wires and connections are not sufficient to remember everything and so your brain prioritizes certain memories and downgrades others. Placing importance, especially emotional importance, on a thought is the best way to make sure that a memory becomes long lasting. This is the reason “bad” or “wonderful” memories last much longer than “ordinary” ones.

Even if you can concentrate and “connect” to an item, life events can get in the way of memory. Stress, for instance, can disturb the formation of memories and chronic stress is even more detrimental to memory formation.

STRESS AFFECTS MEMORY– Here’s how it works.

When stress increases, whether from pain, personal problems or lack of sleep, cortisol from the adrenal gland increases. Increased cortisol then lowers the metabolic rate (BMR) and decreases the available energy that the brain needs to form memories. The decreased BMR then leads to increased belly fat, brain fog, pre-diabetes and further brain degeneration, which, in turn, leads to more stress and inflammation.

What To Do: If you are noticing memory challenges, you should take a serious look at making some immediate lifestyle changes to limit cell damage because memory loss is the first sign of brain degeneration. But don’t fret yet—the good news is that the brain is very resistant and can add neurons and connections (neuroplasticity) that increase your memory and other brain functions.

1) Control blood sugar surges: When blood sugar raises so does insulin, which is inflammatory, so limiting carbohydrates (sugar) can decrease inflammation, a major memory drag. Intermittent fasting can also help by teaching your body to burn fat instead of sugar.

2) Sleep: Lack of proper sleep can lead to increased toxins which causes actual brain shrinkage. On a positive note, proper sleep (slow wave and REM) actually helps consolidate long-term memory.

3) Exercise: Exercise produces a protein called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that protects and repairs the memory neurons and acts like a reset switch. That’s one reason you feel at ease and “clearer” after working out. At the same time, endorphins lower your cortisol levels, enhancing memory. In fact, it’s been shown that people who exercise have less overall brain shrinkage over time.

4) Caffeine: A cup of Joe enhances long-term memory by improving memory consolidation. One cup of coffee works well, but not three cups (300mg). The side effects of high amounts of coffee, namely increased cortisol, will then impair memory.

5) Thyroid function: Even though the thyroid has more of a general function to activate the brain, memory problems are a hallmark of low thyroid function. This can be best regulated by diet andtargeted nutritional supplementation.

6) Cortisol From the Adrenal Gland: Cortisol, the hormone released in response to stress, makes your brain lose brain-connections and therefore memory. This can be regulated by diet and supplementation such as fish oil and phosphatidyl serine.

7) B6, Folate and B12: Studies show that decreased levels of these nutrients are related to brain shrinkage in the areas that are responsible for memory. Unfortunately, as you age, B12 levels usually decrease, requiring supplementation.

8) Vitamin D: Researchers have found Vitamin D receptors that increase nerve growth in the memory areas of the brain. Optimal levels of Vitamin D help ensure this growth.

Let us help you improve your memory and your overall brain function by providing you with a treatment program based on blood/hormone tests that provide a clear path to and effective solution. An added benefit is that this approach improves concentration, mood, energy levels, libido, and overall health–all at the same time.

Dr. Don Davis, D.C., DACNB is a BOARD CERTIFIED CHIROPRACTIC NEUROLOGIST in Walnut Creek. He has been serving individuals with memory problems for 30 years. For information about how you can get a free consultation with Dr. Davis, call (925) 279-4324 (HEAL). Visit us at