Creative Pursuits Martinez News

The Martini Available in Hardcover

I published a hardcover book containing the play I wrote this year, The Martini. The blurb on the back is as follows.

Martinez Cocktail — Martinez Special — Martini: the libation universally celebrated as the quintessential cocktail enjoys no documented nativity. Despite aspirations of adoptive metropolises, the sensible historian recognizes a likely heritage that begins in Martinez, California. Yet, like the last swallow of gin, vermouth and olive brine swirling at the bottom of a glass, the veil of time obscures important details of this sought-after story. Now, inside this book, you will find clarity in a delightful martini tale, told twice. Illustrated prose encourages gathering close and reading aloud, while a second form provides a play in one act to be performed and enjoyed by a gathering of friends.

You will find The Martini for sale on for $19.79. On, The Martini sells for $21.99, with free shipping if you already subscribe to Prime.

You might purchase this book because your gift-giving skills rival those of the jolly old elf himself.


Captain Walker, Unsung Hero of Martinez

This man has abandoned civilization, married a squaw or squaws, and prefers to pass his life wandering in these deserts; carrying on, perhaps, an almost nominal business of hunting, trapping and trading but quite sufficient to the wants of a chief of savages. He is a man of much natural ability, and apparently of prowess and ready resource. –Captain Philip St. George Cooke

I think the kids today would call Captain Walker based, very based in fact. This quote from Cooke describing Walker is more a confession of confusion than criticism. In modern vernacular, I imagine him saying, “I don’t get how this guy refuses to follow the rules yet constantly kicks ass.”

If you visit our Pioneer Cemetery, you will find the grave of Captain Joseph R. Walker. This hero of Martinez hardly gets the attention he deserves. Here’s some inspiration to take away.

  • He founded and named Independence, Missouri when he was only 21.
  • In his 60s, he was still exploring and performing secret missions for the U.S. Army.
  • In 1833, his group were the first white people to visit Yosemite.
  • He warned the Donner Party not to cross so late in the year and they called him an ignorant pike.
  • His policy with hostile Indians: negotiate or be punished. It must have worked well. In all of his adventures, he only lost one man.
  • He never let Fremont forget his cowardice at Hawkes Peak: “Frémont, morally and physically, was the most complete coward I ever knew. I would call him a woman, if it were not casting an unmerited reproach on the sex.”
  • After the dishonorable execution of Apache chief Mangas, Walker ceased helping the U.S. Army work with Indians, despite a track record of peaceful negotiations and trade.

You might enjoy my upcoming play, The Martini, because Captain Walker appears in the first scene.


The Martini — A One-Act Play About the Origins of the Famous Cocktail

You’ve probably heard about how the martini was first mixed in Martinez, but perhaps you’ve experienced doubt because of fake news coming out of San Francisco or New York. If you value the truth, you can experience the real story soon by attending a performance of The Martini presented by Onstage Theatre at the Martinez Campbell Theater in June.

The play outlines key moments in the history of the martini, from its discovery in 1849 to how Professor Jerry Thomas came to document it in his book to how the legend grew to include Richelieu’s Saloon. Along the way, the performance treats the viewer to the rich personalities of Martinez history. You will meet Colonel Smith and Captain Walker, both brave California warriors. You will witness famed mixologist Professor Thomas learn the recipe of the martini on Lincoln’s Day of Thanksgiving. You will wonder at the suave stylings of Monsieur Richelieu as the events described on the famous plaque are replayed for your enjoyment.

Regarding the veracity of the work, playwright Leon Atkinson poses a philosophical question about the nature of truth that descends into incomprehensibility, using words like epistemology. While definitive documentation of the martini history may be beyond reach, there is little doubt that in these situations people turn to inspiration. Both the martini and Martinez enjoy significant reverence from their devotees.

Anyone who imbibing the famed cocktail likely acknowledges the unwritten ingredient called The Spirit of Martinez, a force propelling Martinez residents towards fraternity, benevolence and good cheer. Local personality Joseph Tully has been known to reply “no effect” when asked about the strength of a prepared martini. The consensus opinion concludes that the strength of The Spirit of Martinez overwhelms the relatively weak effects of alcohol.

Are the people of Martinez mistaken, or are they tapped into a source of knowledge others cannot perceive? It’s a topic that deserves further research. Your two best opportunities for learning more are enjoying a martini in a fine Martinez establishment (such as The Lane) and attending a performance of The Martini. This second, limited opportunity can be exploited only from June 2nd through June 10th.

Performances of The Martini are part of a three-part festival of one-act plays. All performances are at 636 Ward Street in Martinez. Specific times are as follows.

  • Friday, June 2 at 8PM
  • Saturday, June 3 at 8PM
  • Sunday, June 4 at 2:30PM
  • Thursday, June 8 at 8PM
  • Friday, June 9 at 8PM
  • Saturday, June 10 at 8PM

Playwright Leon Atkinson is expected to attend opening night June 2nd as well as the final performance June 10th.

You are encouraged to phone 925-518-3277 to make a reservation. Payment for tickets is made at the door.


Ode to a Sump Pump

The sump pumps in my french drain
Of my existence are the bane,
The cause of too much pain,
But only when it rains.







Szeder XMAS 2016


It’s time for John Szeder‘s year-in-review Christmas poem!


‘Twas the night before christmas, and before it all ended,
Half of the internet found itself unfriended.

We are still waiting for the year of VR.
It’s stuck in traffic, in a self-driving car.

Blogging is out–all that writing is tedium,
Unless, of course, it was posted on medium.

Or else it was twittered, or if you like, tweeted:
140 characters, invariably deleted.

The buyers keep buying; the sellers keep selling.
Amazon has less of us leaving our dwelling.

People are talking about new services and toys.
The signal is indistinguishable from all of the noise.

So what could all of this possibly mean?
What is the statement for 2016?

What is this “The Year Of”, What is new? What is trending?
What thing do we humblebrag in tones condescending?

Is IoT enabling your elf on the shelf?
Did you run all the numbers on your quantifiable self?

Can you control your video games with a gesture or thought?
Are your interactions meaningful with your conversational bot?

I watch it all crawling forward, I sigh and I shrug.
2016 is The Year Of We All Need A Hug.

So go wrap some arms around whoever is near,
And have a merry Christmas and happy New Year!

— John Szeder 2016