Tuesday Tribute: Maren Tarro

Maren, writing, as writers do. Also, drinking coffee.

Maren, writing, as writers do. Also, drinking coffee.

Back for another tribute. Today, one of my early writerly friends and all around badass: Maren Tarro.


It was 2007 and I was in the thick of trying/pretending to be a reasonably good restaurant critic. I was reading lots of other writers and had taken a liking to this overly blunt female food writer in the Weekly Alibi who purported to be from the Midwest. But then, her reviews trickled away and this new girl, MAREN, came into play. Who was she? I wrote to the previous writer expressing my dismay that her work had been supplanted by this upstart with the sassy name.

And then. I read a bunch of her reviews, this Maren Tarro. They were damn good. She was snarky and detailed and gushing when justified – in other words, a worthy critic. In early 2008 she received an email from yours truly that introduced – apropos of nothing – that we collaborate on simultaneous dueling reviews. She sounded willing, especially if we could have a few drinks and really shoot the shit, and we met at Nob Hill Bar & Grill within a few weeks.

Sadly, the whole sneaky double review thing didn’t end up how I’d hoped – hers was delayed and the synchronicity was lost – but after that lunch with Maren, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about her trajectory. Right away I got the sense that she never fucked around with anything halfway – you’re all in or you’re nothing. I loved that; still do. Don’t we love what we want to see manifest in ourselves?

Thinking about all that deep stuff, I just poured a bourbon to goad the writing goat. Also, I just invented that phrase.

Time marched on. After a few parties (including a long and salty 30th birthday bash in Las Cruces), several meet ups, and many many months later, Maren has lept into new places and pursuits. Still with that all or nothing bent, of course. She’s written all over the country on issues like marriage rights, Mexican border crap, even touching back down in New Mexico to write political pieces for independent venues.

She decided to hike the whole Appalachian Trail (that would be called a ‘thru-hike’) with not a whole heck of a lot of previous backpacking experience. Somewhere in the extensive planning, she decided it would be easiest for hygiene reasons to just shave her head before starting. So she did. That’s why she’s been a good nudge for me – in the small things and in the big things, make it count.

Thanks, Maren.

Maren amongst the foliage.

Maren amongst the foliage.


Tuesday Tribute origins: a few months ago I decided on a personal year-long challenge: I will take every Tuesday to highlight someone from my life, past or present, who has changed my outlook, nudged the course of my life, or given me reason to make a positive change. In September of 2014 I have shifted the criteria to emphasize the women of influence. 

There are only two guidelines: First, I must have interacted directly with this person. Authors or public figures that have had positive effects in my life are not candidates if I do not know them well enough to call them an acquaintence. Second, those I choose to highlight are in no particular order. There is no implicit hierarchy or chronology. 

Tuesday Tribute: Mina Yamashita (RIP 2013)

Tuesday Tribute #8 (because 8 is a lucky number): Mina Yamashita

Mina around 1970

Mina around 1970

This is an overdue Tuesday Tribute. I missed a week, thinking about writing this and how to broach the topic.

I wanted to write it now, because this past Friday was Mina’s birthday. But here’s the thing. There is no way I can do Mina justice. I’d have to write a whole book and then it would not be enough, not by far. Maybe there is a perfect haiku to summarize her spirit, but I don’t know it. I’ll write a little bit about her, now, here, but she might make another recurrence in my lexicon of Tuesday Tributes.

She would have been another year older, another year wiser, another year sweeter.

She was a designer, a writer, a food lover, a cook, a friend, a preserver of vegetables, a book binder, a gourmand of all good food, and great at everything she did, whether personal or professional. She was a close friend to hundreds of people whose lives she crossed in her time.

I started writing to Mina sometime around 2009, when she popped up on my radar after starting reviews for the Alibi. She had no idea who I was but I figured since her writing was engaging and knowledgable that she must be cool. I made assumptions, like we are want to do, that she was a young-ish woman (like myself), possibly Asian but possibly using a pen name (like myself). I was totally wrong – she was an experienced opinionated woman around the same age as my parents.

Mina had an amazing life. I’ve heard a few stories out of her own lips about her early days in New Mexico and how she acquired her name (it wasn’t her birth name) from some guru in Santa Fe.

She introduced me to a few things that continue to help me in my own (very Gen-X) self-searching attempts, but the most important was just her LIFE. She didn’t take bullshit from anyone, she did what she wanted, she worked on big projects, and she was actively working on new endeavours with all the enthusiasm of a 25 year old up to the week of her death.

There’s so much crap that we Gen X’ers do to ourselves in our own heads – “who am I?” “what’s this life thing for?” “am I doing enough” – and having someone like Mina in your life helps clear through that clutter. In the end, that crap about doing enough and impressing the right people – it’s all crap.

Mina Yamashita was an example to everyone she touched on how to look at living.

Mina at Los Poblanos, "there's a what? where?"

Mina at Los Poblanos, “there’s a what? where?”

P.S. About “TUESDAY TRIBUTE” and the why: a few weeks ago my mind went off a-wandering during my run. As it often does, it strayed into the realm of wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if ideas. Ideas like memes and tributes. It is refreshing to see gratitude posts directed at a certain person or community, someone that made a difference even if they didn’t know it. I thought about those 52 week challenges to leave little notes for strangers or smile more. I decided on a new challenge for myself: I will take every Tuesday to highlight someone from my life, past or present, who has changed my outlook, nudged the course of my life, or given me reason to make a positive change.

There are only two guidelines: First, I must have interacted directly with this person. Authors or public figures that have had positive effects in my life are not candidates if I do not know them well enough to call them an acquaintence. Second, those I choose to highlight are in no particular order. There is no implicit hierarchy or chronology.