Update: share your SF small claims judge story

Here is an update to the previous post. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donald S. Mitchell continues to make damaging news, reported in  the SF Examiner, Aug 16, 2016

Judge who is landlord seeks $10K from tenant in own court

Have you had a troubling experience in the San Francisco small claims court, specifically with Superior Court Judge Donald S. Mitchell? If so please contact me with your story.  We are continuing research for a story on judicial misconduct in spite of roadblocks to exposure. There is growing list of complains against this judge specifically and the flawed and broken state commission that should oversee California judges, but refuses to do so.

Email: melanie@melaniewrites.com. Thank you.


Share your SF small claims judge story

Have you had a troubling experience in the San Francisco small claims court, specifically with Superior Court Judge Donald S. Mitchell? If so please contact me with your story. I am continuing research on a story of judicial misconduct in spite of roadblocks to exposure. Please note that the California Commission on Judicial Performance is a self-policing judicial arm and regularly refuses to take action or even investigate complaints filed against court judges, and dismiss complaints. Without further explanation a form-like letter may warn those looking for oversight not to pursue a filed complaint.

I am fact gathering and anything you offer will be treated confidentially. This research extends to SF small claims court.

Please read this recent SF Chronicle story and report on the topic (March 29, 2016).

Email: melanie@melaniewrites.com. Thank you.



Gone but not forgotten, the beautiful girl.

My best friend in high school, 3,000 miles from San Francisco, was murdered in San Francisco in 1994. Her murder has never been solved. We reconnected in the City in the 1980’s and resumed a friendship, though different from when we were teens and very difficult due to her alcohol and abusive relationship issues. I hung on as long as possible but we drifted apart once again several years later, as I was not equipped to deal with her ongoing issues, and my being a working mother with a young child it became too overwhelming for me to handle. I wish I could have known better.

In June, 1995 I read of her murder the previous year in the San Francisco Chronicle, in a story on violence and Bay Area unsolved murders. It devastated me. Period. It simply devastated me. I eventually tracked down and called my friend’s sister in the suburbs who told me details and police information that was beyond sad to hear. In an ironic twist the sister said that for the first and only time she was thankful her sister was numbed by alcohol at the time of the murder, because the medical examiner and police said at the moment of death my friend didn’t feel a thing.

The emotionaly detached newspaper story reduced my friend to a murder statistic. Although I knew that wasn’t the intention, but a byproduct of reporting the news objectively, it still hurt as added to an open wound.

I immediately shot off a letter to the Chronicle to voice my feelings at the cold reporting, and to simply ask readers to remember the names and valued lives behind the reporting of murder statistics. Consequently, the Chronicle printed my letter in its Letters to the Editor column. Below is the letter I wrote. I continue to ask for my friend and all other abuse, domestic violence and murder victims, to Rest In Peace, in more peace than they had experienced in life.


She and I truly were best fiends then. We shared a connection that was mutually exclusive. Neither of us had anyone else with whom we could confide, reveal, share thoughts and hopes with, or simply cling to. We lived far apart and compensated for our inability to see each other outside of school by spending great amounts of time talking on the telephone. Our high school, while not private, was specialized, with admission through artistic performance, and it kept us separated from other teenagers in our own neighborhoods. This situation heightened our reciprocal need for attachment to one another. While each of us knew other friends, none of them came close to rivaling the relationship that June and I shared during those years. The depression that I lived with and which often frightened me then, was just a shadow of the despondency it would become in a few years. June shared an emotional darkness in much the same way.

After high school graduation our paths diverged. Although we attempted to still connect, attending different colleges eliminated the common setting that was so necessary for our daily contact. Within a short time we drifted apart. It has now been more than a year since I learned of the death of someone who had once been my closest friend. Although she had died 3-1/2 months before, no one thought to tell me about it. I learned of the fact in the saddest way; I read it in the newspaper.

When I first met June she was one of the prettiest girls in our high school; I soon realized that she was one of the brightest as well. I could not help but think of this fact when I read her statistical profile as one battered and murdered woman in Tuesday’s newspaper. June and I became best friends so many yeas ago in New York, bonded by our common sensitivity, isolation, and creativity.

When we met again in San Francisco in 1981 our strong friendship resumed, as the commonalities we once shared seemed able to bond us once again. But it wasn’t to be the same way for us again, as somewhere in our previous years our personal roads conflicted. The depth of our sensitivity to our external worlds collided with our mutual sensitivity to each other, and June dealt with her personal pain in a way I did not.

In the course of June’s life she was often a battered woman, and she did use and abuse alcohol when the pain of living was too great. But June was a poet walking through life with all of her nerves exposed; she could breathe in air and exhale tears. There was a tortured quality that was her shadow, yet everyone who got to know June has been deeply affected by her. She had a special quality that was unique, even among artists, and that will always be the gift she left behind.

Yet compounding the tragedy of her murder is the horribly incorrect way in which the newspaper profiled the life of June Palmer. It is extremely important to both June’s family, and the friends who saw the great efforts she had recently made, to know that the misinformation given about her has been corrected. June was not a homeless person who frequented the South of Market area. This reported information is absolutely and totally wrong. She did not live on the streets ever, at any time. June had a family that always loved her, and they were close; June was a daughter, a sister, and an aunt.

To any person who is reading this, please realize that the names of battered, abused and murdered women that you read are more than mere names to the people who knew and loved them. Like June Palmer who was a living, caring, and special person, there once was a real person behind every name. Although unfortunately the courts may allow an abuser to go unpunished, it is up to society to demand that crimes against women end right now. There is no excuse allowed. And please, remember June Palmer.

Melanie Graysmith

October 12, 1995

~ MG

rip rose

The night Otis Blackwell sang to me

When I turned 16 my parents threw a big party for me, called a “sweet sixteen” party at the time. The fact that my parents selected the party site without discussing it with me, or at minimum asking my opinion on a party location, was a curious thing. But that they booked my party in a nightclub called the African Room, a place they had never visited and knew very little about was even stranger. I just accepted that my party would be at a nightclub that at the time seemed a pretty inappropriate location for a girl’s sixteenth birthday party. And it was.

The African Room billed itself as “New York’s most Exciting Restaurant-Nite-Club,” and with its “Ubangi Supper” menu was not the typical teenager’s food choice of the late-1960’s and 70s era. Considering that all my friends were below legal drinking age, it was a wonder that the restaurant owners would even consider hosting such a party, with no chance for revenue from alcoholic drinks, but they did.

My parents and I arrived at the African Room a bit early, before my friends arrived. Inside the place was lit up, but the lights went low once the nightclub part of the place went into full swing, and seeing became difficult. My friends complained that they couldn’t see what they were eating, and the food was different enough to begin with. Although tasty, the piles of food on the plates were a combination of various meats, vegetables and spices, none of which were recognizable, so we referred back to our menus to recall what we had ordered. Adequate lighting would have been helpful, but it was a nightclub first, second and third — a teen party venue, not so much.

The place was business as usual that night, though a long table was set up for my party with a clear view of the stage; other patrons would come in and be seated at tables, as on a typical Saturday evening. Adults, mainly couples at the small nightclub tables who were sitting close together, surrounded us.

At one point in the evening during our dinner the club manager went onstage. To my surprise he announced it was my birthday, which was followed by shouts of “Happy Birthday” and applause. Then with the wave of a welcoming arm the manager introduced Otis Blackwell, who was seated in the audience, telling us Mr. Blackwell wrote and composed the song “Fever,” made famous by ’50s singer Peggy Lee. Mr. Blackwell stood up, or tried to, as he obviously had had two or three too many and swayed to keep his balance. He then wobbled from his seat to the stage and stumbled on his way up the few steps.  Taking the manager’s microphone, Mr. Blackwell looked straight at me sitting before him, and still swaying to keep his balance sang “Fever” to me and then said, “Happy Birthday.” I had recalled hearing the song before, with its seductive beat and sexy lyrics, but mainly felt mildly uncomfortable with all eyes on me as the drunk onstage serenaded me. Not exactly an age-appropriate song for this older guy to be singing to a sixteen-year-old, but it certainly made an impression, and my sixteenth birthday party is forever a rock solid memory.

Thanks for the everlasting memories Mr. Otis Blackwell; eternally R.I.P dear man.

~ MG


Inside The African Room

Inside The African Room



“Sayaw” documentary highlights exceptional dancers

When I set out for Oakland yesterday morning I was looking forward to working on set for writer/director Cecilio Asuncion’s ethnic dance documentary Sayaw,” assisting Associate Producer Brian Anderson. I was off to the Oakland Metro Opera House, which sounded pretty cool for the shoot. The reality was a workhorse of a set with an up-close introduction to some of the enormous dance talent in the Bay Area.

From first arrivals to makeup, hairstyling and hair ornaments, costumes and accessories, jewels, more makeup, body art and everything else it takes to bring cultural dance totally alive, these talented artists did it all with the same meticulous perfection they applied to their art – their dance.

Lucky me, I met some wonderful, committed and gracious dance artists I would not have had the opportunity to meet, and I totally enjoyed the experience.

Sayaw highlights three ethnic dance groups and one soloist. Although group members work together in supporting each other to produce a cohesive dance performance, each member is clearly and uniquely a talented performer, and way beyond an entertainer though the audience is seriously entertained. The solo dancer simply mesmerizes.

The excellent film crew was totally delighted, and applause followed not only each final shoot, but also some fine rehearsals. At the end of the day everyone knew they’d been on the receiving end of a wonderful show. Thank you performers for the great shoot. This will be one amazing documentary, and  is a winner from the start. Cecilio, you did it!


Carlos Moreno Ballet Folkorico

Natyalaya Dance Company

Parangal Dance Company

Reina Victoria, dance soloist

(apologies, no soloist image available)

~ MG

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Where has she been?

It’s been a long time away for me I know, but I’ve been busy. I hope to get back to my “canvas” for pure writing here, but every day seems another priority takes me away. When I started this blog I had hopes for it to grow each day with at minimum, some meaningful chatter. Anyone who knows me knows I never give up.

Have a peek at something I’ve been busy with: Writing gig for Diablo Valley Initiative, via CBS. This Sacramento site has each article.

~ MG

eyes left eyes right



Anti-social media rises up


I now understand Facebook. I see its vision, its service, and the social gaps that it fills. Facebook is the new psychiatrist’s couch, or whatever the parallel image would be today. It’s a safe place to rant, to complain and basically whine about life’s injustices and the shortcomings of family, friends, coworkers and the everyday folks we come across, day in and day out. OK, I get it now.

Sure, of course Facebook has its upbeat user-friendly side, but it has been getting more negative press lately, though it does a pretty decent job of hanging in there. It began as a noble example of the “find a need and fill it” credo, but like all good concepts it takes a few turns and adjusts as it morphs into the model its users want it to be. Lately I’ve noticed that Facebook posts seem more stressed and angry. The people behind the posts have taken their personal issues to Facebook to complain, vent, or look for help to find solutions to whatever their problems happen to be. Is this a new anti-social media?

It’s interesting to see the evolution of socialized media as it, as a whole, finds a niche for at least one segment of its users. Maybe it’s just the users I see who often take to Facebook to basically “get it off their chests,” but I tend to think that user profile is more common than that. When someone has a grievance but no one around to vent to, he or she just goes to the always present Facebook page, lets off some steam and posts it, feeling pretty sure that in short order one or more pseudo friends will write back with either true advice (rare, but it happens) or generic pacifying support —  basically comments to neutralize the vent.

This is powerful stuff this social media revolution, and Facebook in particular has been in the lead since it’s a friend-based platform, which may sound reassuring, but think again. We all know — don’t we? — not to take the friend label too seriously. After all, anyone can unfriend you at any time. Just saying….as a friend.


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The blog hit the ‘pause’ button

What is it about a blog that brings guilt along to its owner? By its nature a blog should be updated if not daily, then at least weekly, but doing so can be pretty difficult for some of us — people like me, perhaps? I think, ” how much of my daily doings would my readers be interested in reading about?” and it either takes off or ends right there, plain and simple.

Why is it that blogs can become so clingy? The answer lies in the nature of blogging itself: the inherent commitment of blogging — yes, that’s it, the commitment. It’s the commitment to keep your blog going and to keep it lively, and well, I’ve been busy. Stay tuned for new space filler — lively, of course —  here shortly.

See you soon.



Writing the sex scene, proceed with caution

The other day I read an article in Poets & Writers magazine titled ”Writing the Sex Scene,” by Beth Ann Fennelly, director of the MFA program at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The article title comes with a side bar stating (or was it cautioning?) “Nothing Throbbing, Nothing Turgid.” Well OK, I can take that as mild advice although I certainly did not imagine otherwise. To my way of thinking the line between class and crass is not that fine, is it?

The article’s major effort was showcasing the author’s personal struggle when tackling an approaching sex scene in a recently written short story she coauthored with her husband, a published fiction writer. All this is actually not the point of my focus here, but what is my point is that the author states early on that she is a poet and writing a sex scene, which her fiction-writing friends confirm to her is the most difficult scene to write in a story or novel, is usually not an issue for poets. Fennelly points out that poems rarely have sex scenes, then adds that while poems do in fact describe sex, they do it metaphorically – poems about fruit usually end up to be about sex. The author goes further and says “poems about mangoes always turn out to be poems about sex.” Good to know.

The moment I read this observation I realized that although I hadn’t noted the poetic lacking in general, I could readily affirm the fruit parallel. In fact, one of my favorite poems is all about fruit as, seemingly, sexual allegory which I never doubted. The poem, “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams*, is so stunningly touching, beautiful and sensual, yet its brevity too captivated me along with its words. The poetic sentiment is lingering, and that quality is what I love about it.

As someone who loves poetry and enjoys writing poems, reading another poet’s comments helps crystalize my own views, so time well spent. I often write poems in my head, although transferring them to the written form may take more time, or I do it less frequently. That’s a flaw I aim to change so my art won’t be a victim of this timetable.

Back to writing the sex scene: according to the magazine article the less familiar milieu of fiction writing could have been daunting for the poet-writer, but by the time the scene rolled around her protagonists had taken over more or less, as the writer already knew them so well which made writing the scene not much of a worry any longer. Good to note. I certainly know how characters can take control of a story as it’s written and even the writer can get excited to see what happens next.

* Please view the poem; I cannot reprint it due to its copyright.

~ MG


Love poem video dance



Back to class shows support for CCSF

Friday, December 19, 2013

I applied to City College of San Francisco today, literally a couple of hours ago. Why would I apply to a city college considering I have a master’s degree, plus two bachelor’s degrees? Actually, I only want to take one video editing class to help begin to fill gaps I have on the path I want to stay on right now. At any rate, it turns out that CCSF is my best option, and the fact that the college, which I feel deeply sentimental about and hold in high esteem, is plagued by accreditation problems with its very survival at risk, makes me all the more hopeful and eager to show my support. If you’ve been following my posts at Examiner.com over the last two years, then you know that I have written extensively about the CCSF accreditation crisis and have a sharpened interest in its survival.

The class I ultimately want to take is one in either the Cinema Department or the Broadcast Electronic Media Arts Department. Although a prerequisite class will delay me a semester it gives an additional opportunity to learn – I just have to look at it that way, and I do. But financially it stretches me to take a class now, especially at mid-day during the week. If I were selfish I would say that in a worst-case scenario I just hope the school remains open and accredited long enough for me to finish the courses I plan to take, but it goes beyond that personal aim. Having high hopes for CCSF’s survival, I have faith in a positive outcome for the city college that is San Francisco at its core.

When I first was a student at CCSF way back then, tuition was $5 per unit with a $50 cap (sounds hard to believe now, in today’s economic situation) but current CCSF resident tuition is $46 per unit with no financial cap (most classes are 3 units). That is one issue to consider, plus  additional fees that are along for the ride, but all in all a noble contribution for the education and skills students come away with in the end. In spite of the school’s hardships amid uncertainties about its future, there still are many terrific classes in a wide range of departments throughout the college. That said, if you’ve been thinking about learning something new or updating existing skills, consider this friendly chat a word to the wise.

Want to know more or enroll at CCSF? Learn more here.

~ MG