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Meet Bob Booker, Echo's 2020 Hall of Fame inductee

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN Echo looks to the future, at the end of an intense year

LGBTQ NEWS, VIEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT | Vol. 32, #3 | Issue 735 | December 2020 | COMPLIMENTARY




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ECHO_template20-21.indd 6 DECEMBER 2020 | ECHOMAG.COM

10/2/20 1:48 PM



David Simmons

Issue 735 | Vol. 32, #3 | December 2020


Editor’s Note

12 News Briefs

COMMUNITY 22 Without Reservations 24 Recordings 26 At The Box Office


28 Not That You Asked

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN Echo looks to the future, at the end of an intense year

LGBTQ NEWS, VIEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT | Vol. 32, #3 | Issue 735 | December 2020 | COMPLIMENTARY

Blue Plate Collective sets you up for camping success


Outdoor enthusiasts Adele LaVoie and Jency Rogers are outdoor enthusiasts who have turned their mutual love of campus into a business.

Bob Booker

Echo inducts Bob Booker to the 2020 Hall of Fame Our annual Hall of Fame induction allows the magazine to celebrate and honor community heroes who have helped raise awareness and spark change. This year, the award goes to arts leader Bob Booker.

The Mitchell-Wallschlaeger family

WEB EXCLUSIVES Also, in December’s issue — interviews with drag queen Pussy LeHoot and concert promoter Danny Zelisko, and so much more. Visit us at echomag.com to view our monthly issue + read new content uploaded throughout each week. We want to keep you entertained and informed!

The UBU Project shifts gears during the pandemic David Simmons’ nonprofit mission addresses ending youth suicide, addiction, and bullying through arts integration.

Blue Plate Collective’s Adele LaVoie and Jency Rogers


Meet Bob Booker, Echo's 2020 Hall of Fame inductee

Hope evolves:

Happy endings are possible, even in 2020


LGBTQ couple and social workers Dawn Wallschlaeger and Stacy Mitchell Wallschlaeger share the story of their adoption of foster child, Skyler.


Devereux staff members

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona remains committed to LGBTQ inclusion ECHOMAG.COM







elcome to December. I ended my last note commenting on how close we were to the Presidential election. Now, we are on the other side of that very intense, nerve-wracking, and emotional day. While it feels like a victory for democracy, we can’t forget that a portion of that relief comes from the relentless and continuous attack on human rights.

Bob Booker. For more than four decades, Booker has made a career of arts advocacy. He retired as the executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts a few years ago and in that position alone, he earned awards and accolades for his pertinent work. Niki D’Andrea talks to Bob about his work and life. We are honored to add him to our list. Enjoy getting to know more about this excellent human.

The need to fight is pervasive. Biden has made big pledges regarding the LGBTQ community, including pledges to enact the Equality Act, reinstate Obamaera guidelines preventing anti-LGBTQ discrimination, to fight against broad carveouts in antidiscrimination law on the basis of religious beliefs, end the transgender military ban, and eliminate LGBTQ youth homelessness.

There’s plenty more to read, of course. Tom Reardon spotlights two moms, both social workers, who adopted their child through the Arizona Department of Child Safety’s foster program. Laura Latzko talks to Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona about LGBTQ inclusion in their nonprofit’s mission.

Wouldn’t that be great? Let’s hold him to it! People fought hard during this election — they worked tirelessly to educate citizens on how to vote and the turnout and results found people celebrating in the streets. We know it doesn’t end there. Let’s continue to educate, share, and inform. Though it is not at all a complete list, it’s important to thank some local folks who played a big part in promoting voter education — Michael Soto, the executive director of Equality Arizona and Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. Commitment to education is crucial to building a strong future and these two are some of the many who have worked hard to create power through knowledge. As we wrap the year up, we couldn’t do it without inducting an exceptional human into Echo’s annual Hall of Fame. This year, it’s

Camping. Well, it seems to have gained even more popularity during COVID-19. If you’re new to the outdoor activity or want a new experience, Carly Schorman talks to Blue Plate Collective about what they have to offer campers. Don’t forget to catch us online for every issue + new weekly content. Echo continues to work hard to be more of a community resource in the new year. Our sexy new podcast studio is a place we hope will be a platform for different voices. See you in the new year! Amy Young is the editor-in-chief of Echo Magazine. A longtime journalist, her work has appeared numerous publications, regional to international. Please contact her at editor@echomag.com.

LGBTQ NEWS, VIEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT PUBLISHER: Aequalitas Media EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Amy Young CONTRIBUTORS: Kimberly Blaker Grace Bolyard Edward Castro Niki D'Andrea Kelly Donohue Jenna Duncan Buddy Early Michelle Talsma Everson Brian Falduto Jason Keil Jason Kron Jeff Kronenfeld

Megan Lane Laura Latzko Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen Tuesday Mahrle Judy McGuire Ashley Naftule David-Elijah Nahmod Tia Norris Timothy Rawles Tom Reardon Terri Schlichenmeyer Carly Schorman

ART DEPARTMENT PHOTOGRAPHY: nightfuse.com. ADVERTISING ADVERTISING SALES: Kris Radtke 602-266-0550x704 or kris@echomag.com National Advertising Sales: Aequalitas Media at 312-600-8823 or sales@aequalitasmedia.com ECHO READERSHIP: 50,000 SUBSCRIPTIONS: $29/year Echo Magazine LLC MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 16630 Phoenix, AZ 85011-6630 PHONE: 602-266-0550 EMAIL: manager@echomag.com Copyright © 2016 • ISSN #1045-2346


Echo Magazine is published by Echo Magazine LLC, Inc. Echo is a registered trademark of Echo Magazine LLC, Inc. All rights reserved. Written permission must be obtained in advance for partial or complete reproduction of any advertising material contained therein. Opinions expressed therein are not necessarily those of the publisher or staff. Echo Magazine LLC, Inc. does not assume responsibility for claims by its advertisers or advice columnists. Publication of a name, photograph of an individual or organization in articles, advertisements or listings is not to be construed as an indication of the sexual orientation, unless such orientation is specifically stated. Manuscripts or other materials submitted remain the property of Echo Magazine LLC, Inc. 8







David Simmons, The UBU Project’s founder and executive director

Hope evolves The UBU Project shifts gears during the pandemic By Jason Keil; photos courtesy of The UBU Project


ast spring, David Simmons was thrilled to perform in front of a sold-out crowd at the Phoenix Center for the Arts with his brother, the Academy Award-winning actor J.K. Simmons, for the benefit “Light Your Corner of the World.” Also on the bill for the March 2, 2020 benefit were the students of The UBU Project, the non-profit David founded in 2017, performing music they had written and performed. Proceeds from the show went toward funding the organization’s mission “to end youth suicide, addiction, and bullying through arts integration.”

meet during the pandemic, David is confident that The UBU Project, which became a nonprofit in 2019, will be around when everyone makes it to the other side. And because he’s essentially the organization’s only staff member, overhead is extremely low, which means he can get by on the small donations that trickle in from time to time. “I joke that I’m bald because I wear all the hats right now,” he says. Also working with The UBU Project are eight board members and a professional advisory group that includes David’s siblings

J.K. and Dr. Elizabeth Simmons-O’Neill, an English professor. Also included are professionals in the fields of childhood trauma and suicide prevention, including those with experience in working with LGTBQ youth, who assist David with the prevention residency curriculum. According to David, The UBU Project’s residencies are something he’s been doing on and off for several decades. He just gave it a name. Part of this comes from being raised in an art-centric household. When he shared his idea with his brother J.K. and his friend Walt Versen, they encouraged him to grow his idea into something bigger. “They said, ‘This is the perfect combination of all the things you’ve been doing for the past 30 to 40 years,’” he recalls. As David describes it, the residency begins before he introduces himself to the students. There are several meetings with school faculty members so they know what to expect. During the school week, he‘ll focus on social-emotional learning for the school week, including character-building, antibullying, and suicide prevention. Then on the first day, David introduces himself, from his experiences performing as Daddy Warbucks in Arizona Broadway Theatre’s production of Annie in 2012, writing contemporary Christian music, and working with bands such as The Drifters, Tower of Power, and REO Speedwagon. Then he shares the most significant part of his experience: ”In addition to all my experience and training, I’m also a thriving survivor of my suicide attempt.” He then asks the group what that means, and he explains that despite his struggles with alcoholism, depression, and being “the fat kid that got bullied in school,” he is living his best life yet. And the reason why he mentions these harrowing details goes back to the mission of The UBU Project. David’s wife rescued him from his last suicide attempt on March 31, 2009. Afterwards, he was diagnosed with recurrent major depressive disorder, PTSD, and freefloating anxiety. He told her that he wanted

The UBU Project fulfills its mission by putting on “prevention residencies,” studentled songwriting and art exercises designed to address these difficult topics and find some hope, resilience, self-compassion, and empathy in their lives. David had several scheduled at Valley schools for several weeks. Then you-know-what happened. “That Friday, I got the email saying, ‘Due to coronavirus, we’re going to be shut down for a couple of weeks,’” recalls the 61-year-old Peoria resident. “That’s now turned into seven or eight months.” And while other charitable and arts organizations are struggling to make ends 10





Brothers J.K. and David Simmons

to do something “positive and creative” with his second chance. (She died of breast cancer several years later.) Then one day, while driving through the Valley, he heard a startling statistic while listening to NPR: suicide is the leading cause of death in children ages 10 to 14 in Arizona. It also ranks high in any age group across the nation. He wanted to change this, so he started speaking with educators about his experience helping youth through residencies. ”The reason why I do what I do is that it helps you never have to experience the level of trauma and tragedy that I have to experience a great life,” he tells the students. For the remainder of the residency, David meets with students in individual classrooms to show them how they can use music to express what hope, resilience, selfcompassion, and empathy means to them. And while David, whose musical experience ranges from heavy metal, Broadway, and opera, helps the students with the song’s style, the lyrics are entirely theirs. No adult is allowed to help out, including David. “By Friday, they’ve created a very basic song structure,” he says. “It might be a chorus or a verse. And the cool thing is, which is a little glib, but it’s sort of true, that the kids think they’re in a music workshop. It’s a parlor trick. The music is to help them to create a repetitive mnemonic device so that they remember these words.” And when students lock into what David is trying to show them, they’ve found a safe space to say the things about themselves they’ve been trying to express but never have. David recalls one residency when during a lyric brainstorming session where a young girl wrote the line, “I hope I get over my depression.” ”That’s great, but that’s 11 syllables,” he said to her. “We only need 10. So, I ask her, ‘Is it your depression? Does that define you, or is it just something that’s there?’” She stated that those feelings weren’t who she was. “Well, if we get rid of the word ‘my,’

then we have our 10 syllables,” recalls David. “Then another group of kids comes up with the line: ‘Because it makes me not love myself yet.’ Then came the chorus: ‘Hope shines light on depression like a diamond.’ Not in my life would I’ve thought of that.” Like any teacher, David says he learns just as much from his students as they do from him. The students he has taught have shown an over 30 percent increase in comprehension, and The UBU Project’s website (ubuproject.org) is filled with testimonials from kids, parents, and teachers about the impact he has had on student’s lives. “I love being a coach on the sidelines,” says David. “I’m like a big, bald Fred Rogers.” But because of the need to protect students during the pandemic, David and other guest artists aren’t able to meet with students in person. And most school districts don’t use video conferencing software such as Zoom as a safety precaution. Internet lag times prevent David and students from doing anything as a group, making it difficult to share his message of hope, resilience, self-

compassion, and empathy with students at a time when they probably need to hear it the most. David knew The UBU Project needed to evolve during the pandemic, so the organization has been entering into partnerships with organizations such as GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) and AZSPC (Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition) to help kids find their voice in social justice situations. He is even making connections at the national level with professional sports. He recalls one powerful moment during one of his residencies when he asked students to write a monologue: “One man was biracial, and he said, ‘I don’t know what to call myself. I’m here because I want to know where I fit in.’ The monologue he wrote was how he didn’t know what box to check. ‘When I’m with my white friends, I’m the Black guy. When I’m with my Black friends, I’m the white guy. When I fill out a form, I get to choose between Black, white, or Other. I don’t want to be Other. It diminishes me.’” After the New Year begins, David will start reaching out again to schools to see how The UBU Project can help, knowing that it will be different than it was when he began three years ago. But he’s driven to make it succeed because of what the arts have meant to him in his life, and he wants others to feel empowered by their own creativity. “We’re still here, and we will be here,” he says. “That’s why my focus is on people’s emotional, psychological, and physical health. I want you here so we can do the thing.” Jason Keil is a freelance journalist based in Phoenix and is the co-host of the podcast What the Fork: Exploring The Good Place. His work has appeared in Phoenix New Times, AZCentral, and Phoenix magazine, and he tweets about pop culture @jasonekeil.







Victory for HRC-backed Captain Mark Kelly


n November 3, Human Rights Campaign (HRC)-endorsed candidate Mark Kelly won the United States Senate special election in Arizona. This is the second straight election cycle that HRC has played a large role in flipping a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, first doing so in 2018 when the organization made significant investments in support of America’s first-ever openly bisexual U.S. Senate candidate, Kyrsten Sinema.

Mark Kelly has been a steadfast ally for the LGBTQ community throughout his life and in his work with Giffords. Kelly committed that should he be elected, he would co-sponsor and vote in favor of the Equality Act, crucial federal legislation that would finally guarantee explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people under our nation’s existing civil rights laws. “Mark Kelly’s victory proves that the march toward equality in Arizona is not a moment but a movement,” said Human Rights campaign president Alphonso David. “Arizonans know that the fight for equality is not over. With Mark Kelly in office, we may finally have the opportunity to pass the Equality Act in the Senate and send it to a pro-equality president’s desk, enshrining legal protections from discrimination for 12




LGBTQ people across this country. This election, voters, volunteers and pro-equality leaders like Mark Kelly came together to make their voices heard, knowing that we must finally deliver on our founding promise of full equality for all.”

About HRC: By inspiring and engaging individuals and communities, the Human Rights Campaign strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay,

bisexual, transgender and queer people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community. With an estimated 52 million Equality Voters across America, our community is one of the largest and most politically engaged voting blocs in the country. Heading into the most important election of our lives in 2020, HRC will continue to build on the momentum of historic electoral victories at the ballot box in 2018. Visit hrc.org for more information.

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Adele LaVoie and Jency Rogers

Adele: My love of camping and the outdoors in general comes from my childhood and was passed down to me from my parents. My family spent many weekends at the river or the lake while growing up in Arizona. Our summers held at least three camping trips per summer break (one of which was always around my June birthday). Jency: When you grow up with a dad who’s a scoutmaster and eagle scout, you learn a thing or two about being outdoors. Camping is relaxing. Encounter any dangerous wilderness run-ins? In my personal experience, they usually end less dramatically than one might expect. When we camp up north, we will hear the elk making the strangest noises all night towards the end of summer. We are sure to alert our campers to the sounds they may hear in the night! Other than that, just birds getting into the chips or the bread that’s out during the day. We don’t leave anything out that’s not actively being eaten anymore (also a tip we give our campers). Adele: In all my years of camping, I have seen a bear in Arizona once while backpacking. The bear just ran away when it heard us coming, we made extra noises to be sure it stayed gone.

Blue Plate Collective sets you up for camping success By Carly Schorman; photos courtesy of Blue Plate Collective


or lots of city folk looking to put a positive spin on the pandemic, maybe it’s time we venture forth from our urban settings to explore other arenas of the world, outdoor arenas. And the Phoenix upstarts known as Blue Plate Collective are here to help both nature newbies and experienced campers alike as they set forth on outdoor adventures. Okay, just to be upfront, I am not a camper. I mean, even Thoreau had a cabin, right? So please save your judgments. Besides, Blue Plate Collective can help anyone earn that outdoor merit badge. That’s because this local business offers everything from camping kit rentals to full experience packages. Blue Plate Collective is the brainchild of two outdoor enthusiasts, and partners in all things, Jency Rogers and Adele LaVoie. From their shared love of nature, Blue Plate Collective began to organically take shape to all our benefit. If you’ve been thinking about taking up camping, but don’t have the equipment, a kit rental from BPC offers easy





access to everything you need, including tents, sleeping bags, coolers, and more. However, if you’re anything like me and don’t consider pitching a tent part of the fun, the Blue Plate Collective crew can take care of all that, too. Just sign up for one of their Experiences. These once-amonth events take place around Arizona and include more than just the camping kit. You’ll want to make sure to sign up early because spots are limited, and they get claimed fast. I had the opportunity to speak to Adele LaVoie and Jency Rogers about exploring the great outdoors, camping newbies, and what Blue Plate Collective has in store. Echo: So, tell me of your love of camping. I assume you really like camping, right? When we first started dating, one of the early text messaging topics brought up by Adele was, “Do you like camping?” To which, Jency answered, “Duh”.

Jency: I’ve only read about them or seen them on TMZ (knocks on firewood). Starting a business during a pandemic seems like a bold move, but Blue Plate Collective offers people something different that feels very relevant right now. When did you first conceive of Blue Plate Collective and how did it come together? Adele: Oh gosh, this a kind of a long story, but I will try to shorten it up! The idea came in a round-about sort of way. Initially, we were starting a catering business with my brother in 2019. The catering concept was to focus on outdoor dining such as backyard parties, events in the park, or even destination dinner parties in National Parks or at the lakes. Guess we were ahead of the pandemic curve on that one! Jency and I were to be in charge of the setup of tables, chairs, dinnerware, etc. while my brother took care of the food. We slowly started buying all of the things we would need for this at the end of summer of 2019, we figured we would be ready to launch around summer 2020, initially. Since summertime is not ideal for backyard parties in Phoenix, we thought we would start by promoting our concept with some pop-up dinner parties on the Mogollon Rim (about 30 minutes outside Payson). And, since it’s about a two-hour drive from Phoenix, we came up with the idea to offer a “camping add-on” to their dinner experience. We purchased a few basics like tents, chairs, airbeds for this but had no intention of going all-out for the camp setup portion of the experience. Then FEATURE STORY

the pandemic hit ... people weren’t gathering or throwing parties, weddings were being canceled, and they certainly didn’t want to drive two hours to dine at the same table as strangers. We sidelined the whole idea. Eventually, it became apparent that people were interested in being in the outdoors, so we expanded on the camping idea. The name “Blue Plate” stuck around as we planned on using the blue enamel camp style plates for our catering setups, and they are still being used in the dining kit for the camping kits. Jency: Yeah, I guess you can say it kind of happened organically. I had lost my job due to the pandemic and we spend so much time camping so it just made sense to want to share our love of camping with others and why not make it a business?

we give direction and guidance to novice campers. Being outdoor enthusiasts, it can be hard to let newcomers into our sacred space ... but if they are coming into it anyway, we might as well have a hand in how they are doing it. Our website and Facebook pages offer tips and information, but we take it a step further when you book with us. We send informational emails and packing lists, and the kits come with printed instructions as reminders to be sure our campers are not only being safe for themselves, but that they are respecting nature. Longtime campers abide by some unspoken rules, so we have to let the newbies in on them. We are happy to get to share our experience and the joy of being (and sleeping) outside.

Adele: No, I actually own a hair salon, French Method Salon, that I started in 2012. I’m always trying to come up with new entrepreneurial ideas and am so happy to be adding Blue Plate Collective to my repertoire.

We limit the experiences to four campsites, so they have indeed sold out in October and November so far. We are currently picking out dates and locations for our 2021 experiences and they will be listed on our website [www.blueplatecollective.com] and on our Facebook page [www.facebook. com/blueplatecollective], and before we & will after we also announce new dates on Instagram [@blueplatecollective]. January and February dates and locations will be announced later in November. Now that a lot of new people are embracing the Great Outdoors, how does Blue Plate Collective assist these neophytes? We have made it our mission to be sure that FEATURE STORY

Favorite camping food? Is it S’mores?

Jency: Not a s’mores fan! I will say this ... prep your camping food as much as possible. Makes it easier to cook outdoors.

Jency: No, I started an organic cleaning business in 2008 for a few years. I have recently re-started the cleaning business, Johnson House Cleaning, now with an emphasis on sanitization and organization.

While the camping kits are available to go anywhere and anytime you like (pickup on a Thursday and return on a Sunday or Monday), we do offer a monthly camp experience at a location and date of our choosing. Not all camp experiences include setup automatically, but most have the option to select it so that all the camper has to do is show up with food and clothes.

We love to go camping along the Mogollon Rim during the summer, especially when the afternoon storms roll in. In the winter, we enjoy camping at the Superstition Mountains. We have started our camping experiences with our favorite locations in 2020, and will likely be coming back to them, but look forward to adding new locations throughout 2021. We are thinking about adding a springtime kayaking camp trip where the campgrounds are accessible only by boat, as well as a few Tucson area trips. Arizona has so much to offer. Confession, we don’t really like S’mores, but we do offer them as a food choice when you join one of our experiences. We offer campers to select from either a veggie taco ingredients kit, premade breakfast burritos (veg and vegan options available), or a S’mores kit. Our personal favorite camping foods are grilled veggie tacos with elote, and mini cherry pies for a sweet.

Is this your first entrepreneurial endeavor?

In addition to renting out camping kits and other supplies, Blue Plate Collective also offers “experiences” where campers can get the suppliers delivered and even set up on certain dates, like a fancy camping retreat. I saw that November is already sold out and I would expect your December event is filling up fast. Do you have more events lined up for 2021? And, if so, when can we expect announcements?

What are some of your favorite spots to go camping?

I just want to mention that we took a brief pause in our conversation for a camping trip you had planned because I love that. So, can you tell me a little about this recent trip? Where did you go? What did you do?

Any key pointers for camping newbies who don’t want to be total jerks in this wondrous, new world? I think the main pointer would be: don't be a jerk! Be respectful and aware of your neighbors, don’t be noisy and rowdy. Be respectful of nature, don’t leave trash behind and always be sure your fire is tended to and put completely out. Don’t camp, hike, or drive in areas that aren’t designated to do so. Always take your trash with you and put your food away when you’re away from camp or in bed. This helps ensure that wildlife isn’t attracted to the area, which can be bad not only for campers but for the wildlife as well. Now, the hard hitting questions ... What are some of your favorite camping activities? Ghost stories? Is it S’mores? First and foremost, we like to enjoy a beer as soon as we land at our campsite! It’s one of those “unspoken rules” for camping. Aside from that, we love to play Yahtzee (which we include in the game kit for our Blue Plate Campers) and take walks or bike rides. Honestly, though, the best camping activity is just camping itself. We love setting it all up (that’s helpful for what we offer, lol) and sitting and enjoying our temporary home in the outdoors.

We just did a weekend trip at Canyon Lake Marina and Campground with two friends. This trip wasn’t officially a work trip, but it was good for recon as we made sure to take note of campsite numbers we might like to use in the future. We brought our kayaks, and our friends brought their paddle boards and we hit the lake. We made them our favorite camp dinner, grilled veggie tacos, and hung out by our propane powered fire ring. Anything I didn’t bring up that I should have brought up? We would like to let everyone know that we take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, and between the two of us we have a lot of knowledge and experience with cleaning and sanitation. We fully disassemble our camping kits for cleaning/sanitizing between uses, and while setting up the hosted camp experiences, we do not enter the tents without a mask on. We want to encourage safe, outdoor experiences and are conscious of our part in that as well. Jency: ... And bury your poop. Carly Schorman is a writer, podcaster, and desert dweller living in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun. Her first novel, The Saint of Lost Causes, will be released in January 2021 and you can hear her podcast, The Mortician’s Daughter, wherever you listen to podcasts. ECHOMAG.COM




Back row: Taylor and Jordan. Front row: Dawn, Skyler, and Stacy

Happy endings are possible, even in 2020 By Tom Reardon


awn Wallschlaeger and Stacy Mitchell Wallschlaeger adopted Skyler in August of 2019 and their story is possibly the happiest, most empowering story you will read in all of 2020. What does it take to adopt or foster a child? If this is a question you have ever asked yourself or talked about with your partner, the following paragraphs are for you. If you grew up in the system, a number more than a name and maybe (no, probably) never found the right place for you, this story is also for you. For me, it is just a privilege to get to be the guy asking questions and getting answers. Dawn Wallschlaeger and Stacy Mitchell Wallschlaeger are two of the coolest people you could ever meet. Sure, they love the Denver Broncos, but even if you’re a Raiders (what town do they represent again, now, oh yeah, Las Vegas) or a Kansas City Chiefs fan, you still couldn’t walk away from meeting these two without feeling good about yourself and the world, for that matter. They are both social workers whose efforts are entwined with finding the best possible life for the children in Phoenix who need it the most, foster kids. They are also the adoptive parents of Skyler Mitchell Wallschlaeger, 17, who they were lucky enough to meet in late 2018 and officially add to their family several months later. Stacy and Dawn, who have been together for ten years, have three other children, all sons. Two are older (Zander, 35, and Taylor,





20) than Sklyer, and one is younger (Jordan, 16). They were were licensed to provide foster care in Arizona previous to meeting Skyler, although at the time of meeting them, were not really looking to add to their family. Stacy had taken a tough fall in the months prior to hearing about Skyler and the couple had also had a difficult experience with a previous foster child, so they were taking a break from the idea of adding to their family when fellow social workers started telling them about “this kid.” What follows is some of the conversation we shared over Zoom on a Monday night in November. Stacy, Dawn, and Skyler were generous with their time and their story with hope that it may help other children find forever families of their own. Here’s what they had to say: So, tell me how you came to meet Skyler. Stacy: So, we, we are members of a couple of different foster parents’ groups on Facebook. One in particular for LGBT parents, and the special recruiter that was working with Skyler had put them on Facebook. At the time, we really weren’t looking and were a little gun shy about it. Then we saw Skyler’s story from the special recruiter and talked about it. I don’t look at Facebook very often, so for us to see it at the time, it just seemed right. That was November 2018. We first met Sklyer right before Christmas, 2018. Is it challenging for you both to be on both sides of the system? What is that experience like? Dawn: Stacy and I both work in their field.

We’re both social workers in child welfare, a lot of people who have been licensed for a while work in the fields of social work here in Arizona for 25 and 35 years. Sometimes that’s a benefit and sometimes it’s not such a great thing. Skyler came into our lives actually in a couple different ways. Stacy was looking at Facebook, and I was kind of perusing through that and we have a mutual friend, a special recruiter for Arizona Children’s Association, Jen Workman, who was looking for a samesex couple, specifically, to advocate for Skyler; and we were also approached by Ricky Deadwood, who is now at DCS, who privately reached out and said, “This is really gonna be a great match for you. You guys really need to look at this.” I was still recovering so we kind of put it off a little bit and Skyler just kept coming up. It was just kind of meant to be. Stacy and I really feel strongly about things happening for a reason and it was very persistent for us. Skylar was just very persistent about that so there’s a lot of things that kind of came to fruition. What was it about Skyler’s story that spoke to you? Stacy: First I will tell you that “Skyler” is not Skyler’s birth name. It is Skyler’s chosen name. The part of the story I think that resonated for us … When we got licensed (for foster care), we decided that we wanted to do a couple of things. We wanted to focus on teenagers and kids that were in group homes because what we know from working in the business is that kids languish in group homes and they get to the point they don’t want families or families are looking for younger kids, all that kind of stuff. We were like, if we’re really going to do this, then we want to go where we are really needed, and we know the need is for kids in group homes. And we also know that the need is there for LGBTQ homes and that’s something that we can provide that other families can’t provide. That understanding, that acceptance, that ability to walk this path. Gender identity was part of Skyler’s story and they were a teenager in group homes. At that point, they had been in the system for six years. Oh wow. Stacy: The parent’s rights had severed when they were ten. Dawn: Many, many, many different placements. So, there was a lot of upheaval and a lot of moving and not and a lot of true stability from our perspective. I think that’s the other piece, right, when you have kiddos that have been in group homes, their sense of stability is instability, and that had become pretty, pretty prevalent. Stacy: Skyler really wanted a family. Dawn: Skyler really wanted a family and wanted a family within the LGBTQ realm. FEATURE STORY

Wanting two moms, in particular, and really have the ideal family. That spoke to us. Our first visit, they were at a group home and Stacy and I broke down and wanted to, they go by “they/them,” and we took them to Starbucks and for two hours, that kid did not stop talking. They were super happy, very open, and it was just kind of there. We just sat there and thought, “Well, all right. There we are. This was meant to be.” I think the next weekend they visited with us again. Stacy: They visited with us on Christmas day and they were placed with us on January 4 (2019). Isn’t it typically about a three-month waiting period before children move in? Stacy: There’s reasons for that, there’s absolutely reasons for that. I think it has to do with our experience of being in the field and our sense that this was the right thing that Skyler was a match, and we were a match for Skyler. For us it was really about that we went into it to foster and we’ll adopt if it is right and the kid wants that. Now we know Skyler wanted to be a family. The decision to adopt does take a long time but we also know there are reasons for that time. Does the system realize how tough it is for the LGBTQ+ kids within it? Stacy: I think the system doesn’t always realize how tough it is for all the kids in it. Right, not to downplay the toughness there is for all kids in the system, but there are not a lot of options for children who are LGBTQ+, correct? Dawn: I think that is a very valid point. The LGBTQ kiddos don’t have as much advocacy, I think. That’s the case in general, let alone, kids that are in the DCS system and living in group homes. If they identify on their journeys a certain way there’s just a lot of a lot of bureaucracy that stands in their way, but I also believe that there’s a lot of lack of understanding of the challenge. We can say that from our perspective because there are agencies out there that will license families that are LGBTQ identified, and then there’s the next step of actually supporting those families and understanding that, “Yeah, well sure, we’ll license you but do we really understand that you can lose your job at any second because you’re not a protected person?” Do they understand the length of the extra step that needs to happen to be an advocate? I think you can multiply that by 10 for the kiddos that are raised within this system that identify as LGBTQ because there’s a perspective where, “Oh, you don’t really know yet,” or “Oh, you know, but you don’t know where you fit in” or “It is a phase.” There’s so many discounting or saying “It’s just your trauma” that occurs, but I do believe that is absolutely valid that there are not enough resources. FEATURE STORY

So, what steps do you think people, or the system, can take to be better advocates for LGBTQ+ youth? Stacy: You know just talk to other foster parents. You know, probably the number one question we get on Facebook, every day practically, is like, “My wife and I are wanting to become foster parents, which agency should we go to?” Gay and straight both are asking that question because everyone is trying to look for an agency that is going to be a fit for them. Dawn: That’s the other piece, when you are networking, when you’re getting to know people, you’re reaching out, ask the questions about what are the steps that you take that are above and beyond? Do you have a special advocacy group for LGBT families? Who can you connect me with, are there other LGBTQ families that you’ve been licensed with, or that our licensed with you because it is really important to talk to other people about their experience? That’s great advice. We should probably get Skyler’s opinion on all this. Skyler, do you remember what your first thought or feeling was when you met your moms? Skyler: My gut feeling was (pauses) … my gut feeling was, “They are safe.” That was my reaction. I was really excited. As soon as I met them, they let me talk and talk and talk. I heard. If you were going to give advice to someone in a similar situation as you, what would it be? Skyler: Be who you are because it is not

going to cost you anything. A lot of our mindsets, when we get out of group homes, is that everyone is just always taking from us. So, if we just be ourselves and just show them who we are, it’s not going to cost us anything. They’re not taking from us. We are giving to them and they are giving back. That’s really beautiful. If you could do anything differently or if there was a big learning experience from your first few months together, what would that be? Skyler: I’ve had a couple of experiences where I just wish I would have been more honest with them. They already knew everything but there are a couple of instances where I wish I would have just told them what was on my mind. What’s the best part of your family? Skyler: Throughout the years they have started putting up pictures of us and pictures of me that they received and it’s like slowly putting me into the family, officially, and that was really nice. Tom Reardon loves to write about people who are doing something to contribute to our community in a positive way. He also loves his family and family of friends, his pets, music, skateboarding, movies, good (and bad) TV, and working with children to build a better world. Tom’s favorite movie is Jaws, his favorite food is lasagna, and he loves to play music with his friends. He’s a busy guy, but never too busy to listen to what you have to say so tell him a story. ECHOMAG.COM




family landed in South Dakota, where he attended a public high school rich with arts programs. “I found a real place in the theater department in high school,” Booker says. “I think you’ll talk to a lot of gay folks that really found a home for themselves in the arts … I think the arts have always provided a safe place for folks that maybe were trying to find themselves and trying to find their future. I was one of those examples. I was a kid that fell into the theater department and found a place that was welcoming, that was not biased, that was gay-friendly.” He earned a degree in theater from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1977 and became an intern for the South Dakota Arts Council, working directly under executive director Charlotte Carver. It was there, while running errands, organizing mailings, and filing paperwork that an earnest passion for arts administration was born.

Echo inducts Bob Booker into 2020 Hall of Fame By Niki D’Andrea; photos courtesy of Bob Booker Each year, as part of LGBTQ History Month, Echo Magazine honors community heroes who have helped raise awareness and spark change on the local and national levels by nominating them for induction into our Hall of Fame. Echo’s annual Hall of Fame tradition was established in 2006, and each year LGBTQ and allied community members have been recognized of their contributions in government and politics, nonprofit service, activism, and entertainment.


here was no way Bob Booker was going to sit around at the senior center drawing turkey hands and making popsicle crosses. The arts programs he helped launch for seniors “were developed with a lot of care and respect for those individuals,” he says, and they focused on exploring what interested them in the arts, whether it was talking about poetry or putting paint brush to canvas. Booker is a lifelong arts advocate, artist, and arts administrator — but most of all, he’s a community builder and a paradigm shifter. During his 11-year tenure as executive director of Arizona Commission on the Arts, Booker led initiatives that provided support to local artists and access to the arts for people of all





demographics. Being inducted into the Echo Hall of Fame is the latest accolade for him on a long list of awards. Since his “retirement” in 2017, Booker continues to advocate for the arts and make statements with his own art at B Booker Studio [https://rcbooker13.wixsite.com/ rbookerstudio]. He recently co-chaired Arizona Arts for Biden and says now is the time, more than ever, for artists to join in “the revolution for the soul of America.” He was fascinated with the arts from an early age, accompanying his parents to museums and folk craft fairs as they moved around the East Coast throughout the 1960s for his father’s job. After spending much of his childhood in Richmond, Virginia, Booker’s

“In that arts administration and public funding environment, I recognized that if I was going to be a professional actor, I didn’t really have the talent to survive. So, the arts administration became interesting to me,” Booker says. “The fact that you were able to work with the broad spectrum of the arts, you could work with all these disciplines, and that you were close to artists and supporting their work. You were close to arts organizations. So, when I was an intern with the South Dakota Arts Council, I imagined a future in that field.” Booker obtained his first executive director job, at the Minnesota State Arts Board, in 1997. He worked on the board of the Minnesota AIDS Project from 1996 to 2001, and on the board of Arts Over AIDS from 1993 to 1995. Booker and his partner tested positive for HIV in 1989. One of Booker’s goals in portraying the impacts of AIDS through art was to change public perception. “We wanted to recognize the impact that HIV and AIDS was having on the artistic community of Minnesota, to reimagine language and messaging and visual images that would help people understand the pandemic and the crisis we were going through in visual and personal ways,” Booker says. “Early on, the images we were seeing on the news were of people dying, like the famous Nicholas Nixon picture of the gaunt guy in the hospital bed with his father next to him. Those were the images coming out early on, and we wanted to change that image to something that was not only surviving but thriving.” HIV awareness is still a big deal to Booker, now a longtime survivor. Sadly, his partner died eight years ago. “The medication that he was on wiped out his liver and he passed away,” Booker says. “So, it’s important to always recognize that even though we have made incredible strides in that field, people are still dying and people are still not able to tolerate the medication and people still have FEATURE STORY

Richmond and at the time was a Baptist college, I probably would be a very successful lawyer with an alcohol problem, a wife, two kids, and a boyfriend in Peru.

drama teacher, and a band. It’s one thing for someone with wealth or financial abilities to take their child to piano lessons or dance class, but in the arts, we want to make sure that everyone is accountable, and everyone has the opportunity.

Echo: What’s one of your favorite memories from your time as executive director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts?

The other thing we have to look at is access to performances and exhibitions that are reasonable and affordable for people. So, we have to look at ticket prices and ask, “Is that an affordable price for individuals across the state?”

Booker: We created a program called Art Tank, which was sort of modeled after the Shark Tank TV show. It was a program that happened in four regions of the state, where arts organizations and individuals would compete for funding for an innovative project they created that moved the arts forward in some way. The

America and Thoughts and Prayers from Booker’s America series. Shadowbox, transferred text/image on paper, 11”x14”

Echo: You’ve been a lifelong advocate for the arts. Who or what do the arts advocate for? Booker: It was said, “The revolution will not be televised.” Though I honor the poet Gil Scott Heron, indeed the revolution is being broadcast, minute by minute. On Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and in the media, we hear a call to become implicated in positive change. We are in the midst of a revolution. A revolution to save the soul of America. Our army is legion. Artists carry creativity, innovation, questions, experience, and answers in their backpacks … show up, speak up, advocate for change, advocate for the arts, advocate for America. Visit echomag.com/echo-magazines-hall-offame/to see previous inductees.

other complications — especially those of us that are in our older years.” Booker became executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts in 2006. Over the next 11 years, he led the commission through recession-era budget cuts, public policy shifts, and a prosperous post-recession period that included expanding funding partnerships and artist grants and the creation of Arizona’s first Poet Laureate post. Jaime Dempsey served as deputy director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts under Booker and became executive director after his retirement. “My dear Bob. He’s a force! Not only is he lovely and generous and fun; he’s a great advocate for the creative sector, a wonderful friend and mentor, and a true activist at his core,” Dempsey says. “He’s been putting his body and his name on the line for decades, persistent in pushing back against all manner of injustice. I adore him. Please give him all the accolades.” Echo: Congratulations on being inducted into the Hall of Fame! Booker: Thank you! As I looked through the past members of the Hall of Fame, I am really honored to be part of that group of advocates, that army of “action people” who are committed to making our world better. I’m really honored to be part of that cohort of individuals. Echo: What was your childhood like in Richmond, Virginia? Bob Booker: I was supposed to be a very conservative kid. I joke that had I gone to my parents’ college, which was the University of FEATURE STORY

grant was based not only on the project, but on the presentation. We had a panel of folks from that region of the state … and then individuals had four minutes to make their case. I remember one woman in Bisbee, she came on stage with a giant cardboard car, and her presentation was all about her program to deliver arts programming to people in that region of the state where the kids didn’t really have access to visual arts education. She would take this van and drive into communities and set up shop and kids would come and take classes. Art Tank was a dynamic and exciting program, and a really fun competition, where everyone had a voice in it and the audience even had an Audience Award. Echo: What things are essential to a healthy and thriving arts community? Booker: Access is always the word we talk about. The goal is that every child in a school has access to the arts — that they have a visual arts classroom and teacher, a

Niki D’Andrea is a Phoenix-based journalist and editor whose career spans 28 years and includes editor positions at Phoenix New Times, PHOENIX magazine, and Times Media Group. Her scope of coverage has included political elections, drug culture, funding for HIV treatments and medicine, LGBTQ art, fringe sports, and celebrities. When not chasing stories, D’Andrea cheers on her favorite sports team, the Phoenix Mercury, and enjoys playing classic rock records from her collection of vinyl albums. ECHOMAG.COM




Devereux works to be inclusive in a number of ways, including taking part in Pride celebrations

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona remains committed to LGBTQ inclusion Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona works to be inclusive in different ways, including its bathroom signage

By Laura Latzko; photos courtesy of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona


eing inclusive as an organization often involves taking different steps to ensure that those who are served feel welcomed and accepted.





Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona has worked hard to do this by creating an inclusive environment and programs for members of the LGBTQ community. The nonprofit behavioral health organization, which serves Maricopa and Pima counties, was recognized this year in the HRC’s “Change-Makers in Child Welfare” report for its work with the LGBTQ community. This report spotlights partnering programs that have made a commitment to being welcoming and affirming to LGBTQ individuals, including children in foster care and adoptive and fostering parents. Devereux received the HRC’s Innovator Seal of Recognition, given to organizations within the All Children-All Families program that go above and beyond what is expected in serving the LGBTQ community. Organizations’ rankings are based on their performances in different benchmark areas, such as staff training, their practices in

working with youth and parents, leadership, non-discrimination and “rolling out the welcome mat.” Devereaux began working with the HRC in 2012 and was the first Arizona organization to receive the organization’s Seal of Recognition. “We’re proud that we have continued and maintained that seal for the last eight years and plan on continuing that,” said executive director Yvette Jackson. The organization has worked closely with the HRC, which has offered them trainings and reviewed their policies, paperwork, and policies to offer suggestions for improvement. The HRC has also highlighted areas where Devereux is strong and can be used as an example for other organizations. Jackson said Devereux strives to provide equitable, quality care for LGBT individuals, who often face disparities in areas such mental and physical illnesses, incarceration, and placement in foster care. FEATURE STORY

Pride Month celebration

The Arizona organization has helped other Devereux centers by providing a guide for how to serve LGBTQ individuals. This year, all ten of the organization’s youth-serving centers, located in different states, received an HRC Seal of Recognition. “Arizona really provided them with the support and guidance, using the resources that we already have and the success that we had already achieved to help others,” Jackson said. Devereux’s Arizona center works to be inclusive in different ways, including using gender-neutral forms and marketing materials and having co-ed bathrooms and dorms for youth exploring their gender identities. Jackson said recently, the staff has been using a gender affirmative model, which is guided by the gender identity and expressions used by youth and their caregivers. At the Devereux center, youth who identify as gender non-conforming, transgender or gender expansive receive a gender support plan. “That basically ensures that we know what name to use. We know how they perceive safety. We know what resources they are going to need to feel comfortable and safe. We revisit those plans frequently with them to make sure that they are having a positive experience,” Jackson said. Because of its reputation, Devereux’s

Arizona center sees a high rate of LGBTQ patients. Jackson said having an open and accepting environment also makes patients feel more comfortable being themselves. “When you provide a safe space for them to explore their sexuality and their gender identity, you are going to have more experiences of people being open about who they are,” Jackson said. Jackson said creating such an environment also helps LGBTQ employees like himself to feel comfortable. “We are not only a safe space for the clients that we serve. We are also a safe space for the employees. It attracts employees who want to work for a highlyreputable and professional organization that is going to welcome and affirm them and their families,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the Devereux center employs diverse staff members from different backgrounds, who can relate to the youth that they serve. “We always try to have the staff come from the communities of our clients so that they can relate to them and help them along with their journey,” Jackson said. Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona is located at 2025 N. 3rd St. Suite 250 in Phoenix and can be reached at 602283-1573. More information is available at devereux.org. Laura Latzko is a Phoenix-area freelance writer, originally from Michigan, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English and communication studies from Hollins University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.


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Of course, after a few months of success, COVID-19 reared its spikey viral head. Even as the new restaurant shutdown in-person dining during the pandemic’s earlier days, community support kept rolling in. While things looked bleak, enough business kept coming to keep the new spot open. In the recent weeks, Aguilar has seen orders slowly growing again. My first visit came on a Wednesday evening in late October. I found it easy to place my order online and then set off towards the westside. Finding a spot for my vehicle was likewise a breeze since the shopping complex sports its own ample parking lot, saving me the headache of parallel parking on the busy diagonal thoroughfare.

Putting the plant in planet: Earth Plant Based Cuisine Story and photos by Jeff Kronenfeld


ronically, Keyla Aguilar’s journey to veganism began when she worked at a burger joint. Her then manager was a proud vegetarian, which helped inspire Aguilar to go herbivore. These days Aguilar, the co-owner of Earth Plant Based Cuisine, is still dishing out burgers — as well as tacos, burritos, and other classic Mexican dishes — only now she gets to share in the feast knowing that no animals were harmed in the making. When Aguilar first gave up the carnivorous lifestyle, it caused some headaches around her family’s dinner table. Meat was an essential part of the traditional Hispanic cuisine they shared, or so it seemed. After two and a half years as a vegetarian, Aguilar finally relented to her parent’s protestations about the difficulty in accommodating her diet. However, soon her little sister jumped on the plant-eating bandwagon too. A familial tipping point was reached and a few weeks later her parents also made the plunge. Soon after, the whole family went vegan. While carnitas and chicharrones were out, the Aguilar clan refused to give up the traditional tapestry of spices and textures that had always brought them together at mealtime. Of course, they had to show a little flexibility and patience in order to get there. “It took a while to transition all of the recipes to vegan,” Aguilar explained. “There was a lot of trial and error, but we still liked our food, our flavor.” 





Their experimentation proved fruitful. Soon they were eating healthier than ever without scrimping any on taste. Another benefit was cooking and cleaning sans animal flesh proved simpler and faster. This was good because, vegan or not, demand for their eats quickly outstripped supply. “Every time we would have a family gathering or a potluck or something, we would bring our food,” Aguilar explained. “People would always like it even if they weren’t vegan. Our food would always be finished before everyone else’s.”  The Aguilar sisters started discussing taking their family cookbook pro. They surveyed the Phoenix food scene. There were many Mexican restaurants and a few vegan eateries, but no specifically Mexican vegan ones. A lot of places offered token or place-holder vegan options that didn’t do much to dispel the idea that such food is bland and boring. A restaurant serving vegan dishes that even the most bloodthirsty diners could enjoy seemed like the perfect niche. First things first, they found a space on Grand Avenue in the same shopping complex as Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge. The family put the planet-friendly policies they used in the kitchen into practice during construction. Everything that could be saved or reused was, including building tables and a ceiling from old wooden pallets. On September 5, 2019, Earth Plant Based Cuisine had its grand opening.

The complex also boasts a massive, bricked courtyard and covered outside dining area, something so critical for a restaurant’s success in these plague-ridden times. In fact, while I planned to dine and dash — after picking up and paying for my to-go meal, of course — the spacing of the dining tables on the patio made me feel comfortable enough to eat there, the first time I’ve done so in a very long time. The staff quickly switched my meal to real plates with no fuss. As I watched a classic pink and lavender Arizona sunset, I felt some small sense of normalcy returning, if only until I foolishly glanced at the day’s headlines on my phone. For starters, the affordable pricing allowed a friend and I to enjoy a meat-free feast. There was even enough leftover in the dining budget for a second visit the following day. Normally good vegan food costs an arm and a leg, but this place saves both animal and financial appendages. For an appetizer, we ordered the chorizo fries. They were buried under a massive pile of meatless chorizo, guacamole, tomatoes, onions, and plenty of cheese sauce. The fries remained crisp and warm despite the mountain of smokey, citrusDINING OUT

The warm and colorful interior of Earth Plant Based Cuisine

The drink bar at Earth Plant Based Cuisine


We also tried the buffalo wings, which really are something special. Not only did the fake meat come liberally slathered in a tangy buffalo glaze, but they also even sported “bones.” While not actual skeleton, these made for easy handling and really added to the carnivorous verisimilitude. Chewy, meaty, and smothered in smokey sauce, I felt a bit like Fabio in that I almost couldn’t believe this was really all vegan. A house-made ranch rounded out this delightful dish, which I highly recommend.

An image of the front of Earth Plant Based Cuisine

infused toppings. This could serve as a meal for one or possibly even two.

I was already loosening my belt when we started our main courses. I opted for the Bruno burger, which bears a striking resemblance to the platonic ideal of a Big Mac you might see in some glossy ad. Like the wings, the delight is in the cook’s attention to detail. The golden bun is bedazzled with lightly charred sesame seeds. The large, thick patty slightly overhangs the bun, just as I prefer. Thousand island dressing, onions, tomatoes, and fresh lettuce complete the package.

Walking back to our vehicle, we caught sight of a nearby couple sharing a luxurious looking diary-free milkshake. We couldn’t quite find the room for it that evening or during the next day’s lunch I was already plotting, but the pair of lovers looked as content in their dessert as they did with each other. DINING OUT

Chorizo fries, a Bruno Burger, buffalo wings and three “fish” tacos

My dining companion went for an order of three “Fish” tacos. These were each little works of art decorated with purple cabbage, red tomatoes, and a glowing orange sauce. Tucked under this riot of color were plenty of chunks of soy-based faux fish. Again, the realness of the fake meat is greatly enhanced by the careful spicing and fresh accoutrements. Still, the star of this dish had to be the tortillas themselves. Baked in house, they were soft like goose-down pillows yet also plenty chewy.

The following afternoon, my gluttony again conspired with Earth’s well-priced menu. Even after all that food the night before, I was able to order a crazy “shrimp” burrito and a hot diggity dog without going over budget. It was too much for one man, but that didn’t stop me from inhaling it all before retiring for a delightfully unproductive afternoon food coma. The meatless hot dog came loaded with colorful toppings and a heaping portion of golden fries. An homage to the southwest’s world-famous Sonoran dogs, this protein cylinder was smothered in not only ketchup and mustard, but also pinto beans, crema, avocado salsa, tomatoes and onions. This good dog offers a whole lot of bark for the buck. Getting a little fishier, I then ordered a fake shrimp burrito on the owner’s recommendation. I was glad I did. I actually enjoyed the fake shrimp ever so slightly more than the fake fish from the day before. The breading, texture and flavor were so real. Aguilar explained they use seaweed to capture that certain oceanic essence, which means big flavors and big phytonutrients. Again, the tortillas warm chewiness made it far more than just a vehicle for the tasty innards. The fake shrimp can also be had on tacos, which I think I’ll try on my next visit. If you need to feed a family of mixed palettes on a limited budget, Earth Plant Based Cuisine is just the planet for you. This West Side treat is a true triple threat: tasty, affordable and environmentally conscious. What more could you or Mother Earth ask for? Jeff Kronenfeld is an independent journalist based out of Phoenix, Arizona. His writing has been featured in Java Magazine, the Arts Beacon, PHXSUX, and the Phoenix Jewish News, where he received the Simon Rockower Award for excellence in news reporting from the American Jewish Press Association. Links to his previously published work are available at www.jeffkronenfeld.com.

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h, dear, music loving friends, it is that time of year again. Perhaps you want the perfect album to share with a fellow fan of rock and roll or just something strange and weird to get some conversation going during your annual gift exchange. For years, I only gave music or books as presents to the people in my life because I wanted them to expand their minds a bit and what better way to do that than to put a little beauty in your brain? It’s hard, though, to find the perfect record. I heartily recommend perusing discogs.com if you’re into buying online. You can see reviews of the sellers very easily and find just about anything you are looking for, and most often, way more versions of a record than you knew existed. If you want to shop local in the Phoenix area, I recommend Zia Records (multiple locations), The Record Room (North Phoenix), and the Ghost of Eastside Records (Tempe) as excellent places to dig for vinyl and CD gold. I’ve got three selections, though, right here that are just what you need, so let’s see what should be in your bag this year if you are giving music as a gift or asking Santa for a Christmas miracle.

By Tom Reardon Chet Baker — Chet Baker Sings

nameless. It is one of the most beautiful things ever recorded and is just one of the awesome tracks on this amazing record. First put on in 1992, Gospels, Spirituals & Hymns Vol. 2 is one of those records that may not be your cup of tea, initially, but when a couple of weeks have passed by and you realize that

As far as cool gifts go, this one should be at near the top of any list. There is something for everyone on this gem. Chet Baker Sings is the perfect background music for any cocktail party, romantic times, or just to show that you have impeccable taste. Not only is the musicianship on the record incredible, but for a record that was originally released in 1954, it sounds amazing. Russ Freeman’s delightfully played piano darts in an out of Baker’s trumpet playing on tracks like “That Old Feeling” which kicks off the record and “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” in a way that can only warm the cockles of any heart. Baker’s vocals are also pretty damn perfect on this record. Slow and smooth like an 18-year-old scotch, give this one and you will get a kiss, for sure.

Mahalia Jackson — Gospels, Spirituals & Hymns, Vol. 2 If you don’t tear up listening to the “Summertime/Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” mash-up, then you might still be on a hangover from a certain presidency that will remain 24




season. Give the gift of Brainiac and the holiday blues may never come back.

is a vinyl reissue that came out a few years ago on Grass Records that can be found for around $80 on discogs.com, but you need to act fast if you want to have it in time for the holiday

Tom Reardon loves to write about people who are doing something to contribute to our community in a positive way. He also loves his family and family of friends, his pets, music, skateboarding, movies, good (and bad) TV, and working with children to build a better world. Tom’s favorite movie is Jaws, his favorite food is lasagna, and he loves to play music with his friends. He’s a busy guy, but never too busy to listen to what you have to say so tell him a story.

you and the queen of gospel music have been enjoying each other’s company for a fortnight you will realize that you’ve converted. Praise be and “I Just Couldn’t Keep It To Myself.” Give the gift of gospel this year and you will be commended.

Brainiac — Bonsai Superstar Switching gears, a bit, Brainiac’s classic Bonsai Superstar is a perfect, if not pricey, gift for your discerning fan of beautifully noisy indie punk. Not easy to find and the price tag might offend you, but the record will definitely not. 1994 was a good year for wild music, but song for song and pound for pound this is the best American record of that class. When “Hot Metal Dobermans” kicks off the record, the little hairs on the back of you neck will stand at attention and the person receiving this gift will probably need to be resuscitated out of shock. There ENTERTAINMENT




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feel cliche when discussing how 2020 has hit all of us one way or another, but it’s true. Illness, political divide, increasing natural disasters and wildfires, Brexit, Black Lives Matter, the advancement of #MeToo ... do you remember Kobe Bryant?

Many of us have searched for relief, solace — even an escape from news stations. As a proud Grinch when it comes to Christmas (just ask past and present roommates), even I quickly turned to the new Hallmark-esque movies popping up on Netflix and Hulu days after October 31. While these movies did provide comfort, I still fall to my go-to holiday movies to truly get my eyes shining red and green.

By Tuesday Mahrle

Elf Premiered 2003 | PG | 97 minutes | Comedy, Family

Say what you will about Will Ferrell’s comedy, but this tops one of the best movies in his career. Buddy, played by Will Ferrell, was accidentally sent to the North Pole as a young child and raised among Santa’s elves. Feeling the overwhelming sense that he doesn’t belong among his peers, Buddy travels to the far-off land of New York to find his real family. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues.

The Holiday Premiered 2006 | PG-13 | 136 minutes | Comedy, Romance

This movie makes even a cold heart like mine teary eyed. While many would replace this with Love, Actually, I believe this movie is far superior. The story isn’t new and could even be added into the Hallmark category, but I can’t live without it. Amanda, a California well-to-do, swaps places with Iris, an English countryside businesswomen. Quickly, the lines blur between their old life and new, including hunky men for both ladies.

Scrooged Premiered 1988 | PG-13 | 101 minutes | Comedy, Drama

The Santa Clause Premiered 1994 | PG | 97 minutes | Comedy, Family

Tim Allen being a childhood favorite, I grew up not only watching the TV show Home Improvement, but also enjoying this holiday gem. Businessman Scott (Tim Allen) finds himself in the throes of a divorce with his wife when he accidentally kills Santa Claus. Little does Scott know, he is now the new Santa as he’s transported to the North Pole. While he thinks he and his son had one night of fun, months of odd changes convinces him he may not have been dreaming. 26




Yes, Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol has been made hundreds of times, but Bill Murray takes the cake when it comes to holiday movies (Groundhog Day, anyone?). Frank Cross (Murray) is a rich TV executive who takes the term curmudgeon to an entirely new level. As the story goes, Frank sees his past, present and future when visited by a series of ominous ghosts. While The Muppet Christmas Carol gets honorable mention, Scrooged reigns supreme. Tuesday Mahrle is a film critic and host of “Whiskey and Popcorn,” a Phoenix-based movie podcast. ENTERTAINMENT


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We gotta fight (or not) for our rights By Buddy Early


here’s a common sentiment that has been repeated since the beginning of last summer, when protests over police brutality flared up in every major and mid-size city across the country. It’s simple: it should no longer be incumbent on Black Americans to fight for and secure the rights and equal treatment to which they are entitled. Why should the people who are being oppressed, brutalized, and discriminated against have the duty of righting those wrongs? The obligation of addressing this country’s race problem falls at the feet of white people. White people created the problems we are experiencing, and white people should have to fix it. Don’t be triggered; when I talk about white people like this, I am definitely including myself, my friends and family, all of you reading this, Jennifer Aniston, Peyton Manning, Miranda Lambert, and — well, you get the idea. Basically, anyone capable of being an ally. Sometimes being born into a body that requires you to be an activist for your own basic human rights can be exhausting. And unfair. And unnecessary. But definitely exhausting. I can only speak of my experience of being a gay man. (Despite my previous claims that I am, in fact, a strong black woman … that’s actually not true.) I have been living now for half my life as out and proud after spending the first half in the closet. Throughout both realities — closeted and uncloseted — I knew what the world thought of gay men and women.





I knew where we stood in this country. Even when I was denying what I knew deep down and fantasizing about marrying Lauralyn Beattie, I was aware that gay Americans did not have a fraction of the rights guaranteed to everyone else. For many of us of a certain age, there was a point when we simply accepted the possibility that we may live the rest of our lives without achieving full equality under the law. Even the most optimistic among us had to believe that we were advocating for future generations more than for ourselves. Growing up gay in the 20th Century, all you knew was inequality. It’s not like you had certain rights — and then had those rights taken away. Fundamentally speaking, you can’t miss something you never had. Therefore, there was a tendency to accept it as your “lot in life.” Almost all of the rights and privileges we fought for in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s have now become reality; so we are now, indeed, facing that likelihood that some or all may slip through our fingers, thanks to a conservative Supreme Court aiming to roll back every bit of progress this country has made. I guess it was nice while it lasted? I’m sure I am coming across as being defeatist. However, understand that I am exhausted. I’m 100 percent ready for our straight allies to take up the mantle of fighting for our equality. See, that’s where my defeatist attitude ends. I know those allies are out there. I know I’m not alone in having heterosexual friends and family

members who are more passionate about LGBTQ equality than we are ourselves. They scream, wring their hands and cry when there are setbacks; they flagwave, cheer, and cry when there are victories; they shout down others online and in-person, sacrifice relationships over issues, and boycott anti-gay businesses. They carry on this way after many of us bona fide gay folk have given up, even temporarily. These family members appreciate and revere their equal rights so much, they won’t stand for loved ones not having them. My own sister even sacrificed her inbox by providing her email address to the Human Rights Campaign while buying overpriced t-shirts and knick-knacks at their flagship store in San Francisco. Now that’s allyship. I’m grateful to allies like my sister and brother-in-law, and to my straight friends who will continue to be vigilant about LGBTQ equality. Good on them. But I’m exhausted from fighting something that shouldn’t be my fight. Securing my own community’s equality is not my job anymore. My job is standing up for black and brown communities, because they shouldn’t be required to fight their fight, either. Buddy Early grew up in Tempe and has been involved in various communities across the Valley since. He is a former managing editor of both Echo Magazine and Compete Magazine. COMMUNITY


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