Thursday, March 30, 2006
In other news, I recently read an article about a book called Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. Levine, a New Yorker, and a former automatic consumer (like most of us), mindlessly bought morning lattes and afternoon snacks. She ate out more than she realized. Her personal list of wasting money goes on and on. She was sick of her meaningless contribution to our society's over consumption so she decided to experiment for one year as a non-consumer, buying only "essentials" as defined by her and her man whom she's lived with for over a decade. Critics of the book question whether a $55 haircut and cat medicine are essentials, but the point is she became cognizant of shelling out money without checking the motivation or the actual bottom-line. Admittedly, this was very hard for her. She and her man became bummer friends declining constant invites to the movies and dinner. They handmade birthday presents. She craved clothes shopping and even slipped once . . .but on the upside, her knee-jerk response to spend was nearly completely squashed, she paid off an $8K dollar credit card and experienced what she describes as the most meaningful year she's had with her boyfriend in their 13 years together. All of this has made me think a lot about my own over consumption and wastefulness. It has made me realize that I had lost focus on some financial goals -- though we are humming along ok -- but if we were to be more aggressive, how much closer and faster could we get to the big picture? I think I had lost focus because our goals had become blurry. We live a fine life, not extravagant, but comfortable and sweet. I had not been looking beyond the current comfort and relief of this comfort. This caused me to tune out my own looming, moderate credit card debt and the very slow-building safety net. I've decided to do my own non-consumer experiment. A four-month plan to see what we can achieve financially. I mapped out my own essentials and thought about a more moderate plan for upcoming birthday parties and trips already planned. My biggest goal is to be conscientious about every dollar spent. Do I need it? Is this taking away from the Big Picture?
That said, ironically I just got my haircut for the first time in nine months. That was an essential if there ever was one considering my split ends were about to spontaneously combust at any moment. I am deathly afriad of getting my haircut for good reasons, but I found someone competent -- finally. I feel like I've stepped into the year 2006 and I'm thrilled with the moderness of it. My camera took a shit this morning or I would've shared - sorry! But it's a long shag, with side-sweep bangs. I'm not sure about the bangs yet, but the funness of it has got me all giddy. However, this morning I laughably realized that I may have cut my hair exactly like Marigoldie, Maven AND Andrea at hula seventy. Dudes, I now have the Hip Blogger Cut. Sorry for subconsciously biting all y'all’s style.
On to Gratuitous Gorgeousness Friday. Husband and I recently found some old pictures of the girls. They slay me with devastating feelings of mushiness.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Husband and I are confused again. We made the mistake of going to Santa Monica this weekend and having lots of fun. I'm kicking myself for the easy, good times now. I used to think it was my imagination, but Santa Monica has a smell to it and every time we visit I roll down the car windows to breathe it in. It smells like Hometown. We hung out with Husband's best friend visiting from back east, and instantly Husband craved Hometown too. And we're confused again.
No matter how good the town where we live now has been to us -- the perfect place in many ways -- hometowns try to lure us back. Most times we pretend like we don't hear it. I say, "Home is where we make it, Papi." And he says, "True." We haven't even talked about this for almost a year as we go about our everyday, filling the groove of our Life for Children. But Saturday we drove back from a great day with the children in Santa Monica where it smelled so good, and he and I said nothing. We knew exactly what each other was feeling. We were having a hard time stuffing the feeling back into its lockbox. We weren't supposed to feel this way again.
Husband may have an opportunity to get a new job in LA. It would be a new industry for him. And it all sounds exciting, the whole thing, the moving, the opportunity, us answering the call back home. But then we get nervous. We have one foot in the practical where we've built a small piece of comfortable suburbia for ourselves, and sure, we fight off city yearnings, but our kids have roots here, and there's nothing wrong with our life. And then we have one foot involuntarily inching towards the pull; a life that fits us, where we aren't always trying to fit it, and where we may be able to do more exciting, life-calling things, --Husband expecially -- than a semi-safe, soul-sucking job. But usually we spend SO MUCH TIME weighing out the pros and cons -- ignoring our gut pull -- that we end up always choosing to stay where we are, y'know, for the children. I mean, maybe this feeling will pass again. Sooner than later, I hope. It's hard to fend off sometimes.
But if Husband were to say Let's Go, let's just go for it because, y'know Mami, our children will always be fine because of US and nothing else; if he were to say let's live this adventure together and trust our gut this one time no matter how scary and unsure, I'd make it work with him. I'd pitch to work my job from home and I'd stop internet shopping and I'd find us a little two bedroom apartment in Santa Monica under a billion dollars -- and I'd fix it up and make it ours because home is what you make it or where the heart pumps or where the hat goes, or maybe where you secretly wish you were.
Then again, maybe home is the place that has been good to you and your children no matter the lack of deep-rooted connection. I guess we'll just have to weigh the pros and cons, and I'll pray for this feeling to pass, and I'll tell Husband not to drive me up to Santa Monica again until we're willing to really take a chance, until we're ready to come home.
Friday, March 24, 2006
So, we've heard how South Dakota is slipping back into the dark ages? Governor Mike Rounds recently signed a law to effectively ban all abortions in the state with the exception that it save a mother’s life. There were, however, no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
In response to the blatant bullying of women -- are we suppose to let any archaic and cruel legislation fly? -- President Cecilia Fire Water of the Oglala Sioux Nation on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota decided to wave a little power of her own. This is what the former nurse and healthcare giver had to say: “To me, it is now a question of sovereignty. I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.” Now that is a kick ass response from a savior in a power position.
Because the Pine Ridge Reservation does not have a lot of extra money laying around marked, Heroic Projects, here's where you can send your extra money you might have earmarked for heroism:
Oglala Sioux Tribe
ATTN: President Fire Thunder
P. O. Box 2070
Pine Ridge, SD 57770
ATTN: PRESIDENT FIRE THUNDER
PO BOX 990
Martin, SD 57751
For donations specifically for the Planned Parenthood clinic, make checks out to OST Planned Parenthood Cecelia Fire Thunder. General donations may be made out to the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Pass it on.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The most remarkable thing about Mina and her stomach flu was the utter lack of complaining, whining, whimpering. Nothing. She puked, wiped her mouth with industrial efficiency, rinsed and climbed back up the bunk to bury herself in blankets. "Do you want a bowl up here, baby? Just in case?" I asked her. She said, "I can make it." She kissed me and went right back to sleep. Twenty minutes later this scene repeated itself exactly as before. Husband was up by the third round. I tried to let him take the reins, but I couldn't pretend to catch some sleep as I listened to her sickness. I walked into the bathroom. Husband was holding her hair, and he said, "She's exactly like you. She's an ox."
I'm not a complainer. I was even less of one when I was a kid. Especially if something was really wrong. But I differ from Mina because if we have the same suck-it-up gene, she demonstrates it out of confidence that there is a safety net waiting if things were to go really badly. As a kid, when I was sick or hurt, I sucked it up out of bewilderment and fear. If I didn't know how to fix it myself immediately, I retreated far into myself.
In second grade, my class played a game of freeze tag where we had to unfreeze players by scurring through their legs. As I jammed head-up through a kid's legs, another boy barreled through head down in the opposite direction. We collided violently. I was knocked back a few feet on by butt; spots blurred my vision. I got up without a cry or a word and walked quickly to the bathrooms clear across the playground. I looked in the mirror and saw that the right side of my forehead had swelled to a large golf ball, and both eyes look bruised and bloodshot. Dizzy, I just huddled in the corner of a stall and said nothing until a teacher found me and pulled me out. I was sent to the hospital with a bad concussion. I have a ton of stories like that. Bloodied noses in fender-benders that I pretended I didn't have as I wiped furiously at my face and looked the other way. Getting punched and kicked and acting like I didn't. I even got sniped one time with a b.b. gun as I stood alone on a busy west L.A. intersection. I was fourteen and when I felt the sharp TTHHWAP! hit my leg, I thought someone had thrown something sharp at me; I didn't know what had happened. I didn't look at my leg at all. I just looked around to see who had done it. I limped four blocks to the market, where I was heading, before I allowed myself to look at my leg in the store bathroom. There was a clear-cut round hole in my sweats and when I lifted the pant leg, a metal ball unlodged itself from my thigh and rolled behind the trash. I washed the bleeding hole and ignored the swelling and the huge bruise that lasted over a month. I still have a perfectly round white scar on my leg.
In my early twenties I saw David Lynch's movie Wild at Heart in the theater. I don't remember being terribly impressed, but I remember most clearly and frighteningly the scene where the girl had been in a car wreck. She was standing on the side of the road, bleeding from her head, and all she kept saying was, "Oh, I just need to put on my lipstick. I'm fine. Where's my lipstick?" She frantically rummaged around in her purse, and then she died. And I remember thinking at the time -- without, of course, saying a word to my date --, Holy shit, that's how I'm going to die. I'm going to try to play off a bullet wound or an ax in my head while repeating, "No, I'm fine. Really. I'm fine."
From midnight to 5:30am Mina threw up every half hour to an hour. By the end, when there was absolutely nothing left in her stomach, she let out monster dry heaves that even woke up Maya. From two o'clock on, Mina snuggled in our bed until she needed to jog to the toilet to matter-o-factly take care of her bug business. None of us slept. It was a night that seemed like three. In the tricky haze between sleep and awareness, I thought of the freeze-tag game and the slightest rise of a bump that still exsists on my forehead. I thought of the b.b. gun ball and the other various bloody noses and ignored black eyes. I spooned my little baby ox as I willed the bug to leave her body. I savored the attachment of us lying in half sleep. I soaked in the pleasure of our similarities, but I love how different we really are; how we are different species of oxen.
Monday, March 20, 2006
On Saturday -- when the third day of March Madness basketball games were to be played, the very same games I wait all year to watch, a tournament that I list as one of my passions -- my girls had a big Tae Kwon Do tournament. As much as I wanted to watch 10 straight hours of basketball, there is nothing I'd rather do than see the girls compete; to witness their involvement in things. This was also Mina's first tournament ever so Operation Redirecting Enthusiasms was gladly engaged. The four of us were out the door by 7:30am on Saturday and an hour later we were crammed into a small, tier-three L.A. college gym with a couple thousand other parents and competitors. The combination of heat generated by two thousand people in a tiny venue and the chippiness welling within tired and bored parents makes for a charged and simultaneously draining atmosphere. We were there, on backless wooden bleachers, for ten hours which only seemed like a month.
Mina was up first and she patiently moved her way through her forms. Seeing my mini six year old dressed in her white gi cinched by a purple belt and taking something very seriously shot pangs of joy directly into my heart. Mina earned a silver medal for her rockin' effort and she was thrilled with herself. She swung the medal, showed it off, twisted it around and paraded it in everyone's face, including second degree adults. BOOYA, Black Belt!
Maya was next. This tournament business is becoming serious for her. She has her first shot at qualifying for the junior Olympics this year and she's trying to figure out in her mind what that means to her; what type of commitment it takes. Since her last tournament, she's shifted a gear up in her training, but I saw in her face on Saturday that she's realizing one gear up isn't enough. 75% of yourself isn't enough. This is a point that makes or breaks a budding and talented athlete -- or any talented person -- and Husband and I support her by saying, If you want this, Maya, it's ok to go for it 110%. It's ok to lay it all on the line. We believe in you.
Her forms were strong. She packed power and intensity, but her lack of flexibility kept her from getting the gold or silver. The other girls were near splits with their side kicks. Maya got a bronze and she was PISSED. We told her how solid and strong she looks, how proud we are, but it didn't keep tears from falling. She vowed to stretch every day until her next competition in April. She was pumped for the sparring match. We had to wait four hours until her match, but she remained fairly focused. We ate from the cooler I packed and we kept our spirits fairly light on our bleacher camp, enjoying each other's company.
Maya had to fight the Gold Medalist from the forms match. We found out that the Gold Medalist was a tournament favorite for this level, the hopeful from a huge studio in Southern California. We also realized that those volunteering for the event and those sitting at the judges table for the match were affiliated with that particular studio. As the fight began, Maya came out aggressively, solid, had the girl on her heels. The girl attacked back, kicked and countered. Maya held ground. The fight was close. We thought Maya scored once, the Golden Girl not at all. Or we thought maybe it was a no-point tie. At the end of the match, the referee announced that Maya had lost. She would not fight again as the other two would battle it out for gold and silver.
I watched hope start to slide off of my tough baby's face. Who wouldn't want to give up after working so hard? She was fearing that what she wanted might be impossible to obtain. But she can't see how obtainable it all is from where she's standing. And we told her that we thought she won,that she fought so well, and that maybe the judges awarded the gold to the event favorite. Her tears came again anyway.
Before the match I had bought Maya a little pin of two people sparring. I knew whatever happened I'd give it to her after her match. After she lost, I told her to keep her head up because there was nothing disappointing about her fight. I gave her the pin. "Don't give up, Maya. The pin is to remind you of that," I said. "Don't give up. You're so good. So strong. You're so close." My favorite part of these talks is that she believes me.
Sometimes, when I'm possessed with good mami speeches, I try to step outside of myself. I try to pretend that I'm not giving the speech, but receiving them. I used to give myself pep talks as a kid, but they seemed hopeless because I had no point of reference. Was what I was saying true or real? As a kid, I could not convince myself entirely. But now that I have real life receptors reliant on heartfelt words, I pretend again that the words are for me too. If they are expected to believe me, why shouldn't I believe them for myself? If they are expected to work so hard to get what they want, then it gives me courage to keep working hard too. I can keep on facing the blurry days as they come and go, trying to slow moments down with my appreciation of them.
Friday, March 17, 2006
I also run a huginic march madenss pool. Ninth year running, and I have sixty-nine poolers this year. This pool was my first blog in ways because after each round of games, I'd email all the participants with long commentaries that I forced them to read. It was extreme, forceful blogging. Here, I wait patiently for comments. With the pool commentaries I'm like, Did you read it? Huh? Huh? COMEONE, Let's talk basketball! This year, I've actually started a real live blog for the poolers. It's called The Pool Dominatrix and, yo, double blogging on my schedule is BIZNATCH in a wildly exciting way. I feel like I'm movin' and a shakin' 18 hours a day. Anyway, check out my alter ego, Pool Domi if you feel so inclined.
No photo booth Friday today though it really did cross my mind to run to the theater booth and spin a basketball on my finger. Couldn't fit into the 18hour movin and shakin schedule. Maybe next Friday.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The best part of the Lotto Club is when we huddle in our wiccan circle and blurt out strategies for better luck such as quick pick vs. favorite numbers. Or best days to play, how we should feel while buying tickets, always speaking well of other's good fortune, vowing to give two weeks notice and not leave anyone in a lurch -- we CANNOT jinx this in any way, shape or form. We are like a lotto curling team. One of us buys the tickets like the stone slider and the rest of us clear a karmic path to get our numbers to actually hit. We are brushing the spiritual ice to hit the target. We believe in this 500%. And good for us.
We also huddle up to declare what we would do with the winnings. This is something I typically only do alone while driving, and I can do it over and over again; parceling out winnings, wisely spending, contributing, winning at life in general. Saying a wish list aloud can feel a little silly: Saying "I'm gonna win at life," can attract some under-the-breath chuckles. Adding, "And help others win" sounds just as dumb. BUT I DON'T GIVE A SHIT, because we're gonna win, that's why. Our wish lists sometimes vary vastly. I say shit like, "I'm gonna volunteer and fuel some radical causes and save the entire world and, and . . ." My eyes widen with too much that needs to be done, and my co-Lotto Club member Ma says, "I will garden." And my eyes glaze over with the pure simplicity of that and I say, "Yea, garden."
Sometimes we discuss the threshold at which we will quit our jobs. We are all in agreement on the quitting thing. We joined the Lotto Club for that precise reason: So we could make our goddamn break at last, without any regrets. Most of the members say with a million dollars they would feel comfortable with quitting though since then it's slipped to $500K and maybe $250K. My bar is WAY lower. If I won a $500 scratch-off I might be history. Ironically Lotto Club also KEEPS us from storming out irrationally on a daily basis. We feel hopeful now. We feel we have a more solid plan than just picking up our purses at 10:32 am one day, thinking "fuck this" and giving our perplexed bosses the finger as we bust out for "no reason." Having a job in general can just irritate the fuck out of you. I'm learning this as I'm closing in on my third decade of working. Even if you have a good job, a well-paying job, a job that pretends to take care of you. It's mainly the Having To Get Somewhere At An Exact Time thing that digs into my schedule, and the whole Telling Me What To Do thing bugs me. And dealing with dummies. That really bugs me. I've worked with brokers for fourteen years and I've come to the conclusion that they are the exact definition of doing the same thing over and over and over again hoping for a different result. I'll say things like, "Hey Salesguy, go quote your customer 5,000 pieces of a chip I have in Europe." And then I hear the Salesguy immediately after on the phone saying, "Mr. Customer! I have your part. Yup. 10,000 right here locally. (click) Madness! I got that PO for ya!" And I throw papers in the air like I just don't care. This type of shit happens every single hour. If not with salesguys then with vendors. I'll say, "Hey Vendor, I got that PO for you. The 5,000 pieces?" And he'll say, "Who's this?" And I'll say, "I talked to you two seconds ago." And he'll say, "The price just went up." And I'll say, "Bullshit." And he'll say without blinking an eye, "Parts were just sold to someone else." More papers fly. Salesguy asks, "Can you get those 10,000 pieces here in an hour?" By three o'clock every day, I'm pounding my head on my key board.
Every person in our Lotto Club has similar stories. It all goes on and on: Up in the morning to get to work "on time." Doing stuff for dummies, bartering with jerkoffs, day in/day out. Do This Now, Do That Yesterday. Can't you pull off another miracle? BITE ME already.
The Lotto Club is a little oasis within the swirling stupidity and monotony. It's a solid mirage that keeps us going, gets us laughing at work. Keeps us hopeful and prevents us from flipping over desks and telling them all to SHOVE IT, only to panic later how the rent will get paid. Soon, this will not be an issue. Soon, very very soon, Ma will garden and K will take a limo to the spa and T will drop kick accounting to kingdom come and I'll save the entire world. Maybe I'll try a little gardening first.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006
When Ray Barretto died, I frantically tried to find my Indestructible album that I hadn't listen to in about,uh, . . . forever. Good thing I cherish this emotionally valuable piece of music, huh? The good news is that I found it. The bad? I found it in a box in the garage as a cassette. Remember those? Cassettes? The things that have the tiny film tape that are precariously fragile BRAND NEW, so let's not talk about the state of the 15-year old tape as found in my garage. I mourned, and then realized the remains were a lethal weapon. The shards of the busted plastic case clearly a dangerous shiv and the tape itself, which only breaks in the middle of your favorite song when you're trying impress someone with it, could be fashioned into a durable noose.
I thought, No problem, right amazon.com ol' buddy? We'll find Indestructible. But then Three Sheets pointed out that though amazon sold the CD, they were trying to fetch $95.00 for a used copy. WHAT IN THE HELL. Still calm, I tried other on-line distributors. Nada. HOLY SHIT. I had had this problem once before when I looked high and low for a particular Maraca y Otra Vision CD that I HAD TO HAVE and I found it only after entering a narrow record store in Spanish Harlem. When I asked the storekeep who was behind the glass case counter displaying bongs for the CD, he said, "You won't find this west of Hoboken." No shit, and I grabbed the CD from his toying hands. So, would my search have to be this elaborate for Indestructible? I was up for the challenge.
I turned to eBay (western whistle sounds) and blew on my fingers. There was one copy being offered in CD form. It was a burned copy and I realized right then that I am not a collector only an appreciator of the music. I just needed to have this CD in my collection. I typed in $20.00 as my max bid and the wait for the vicious eBay war began. I know how those sharky eBay buyers worked, how they manipulated time. I vowed that nobody was gonna get this CD but me. I figured as long as I paid less than $95 all would be right in my world. But no one else bid on my beloved album, and I got it for $9.50. SWEET.
The CD arrived yesterday. And I haven't listened to anything else since. I've kissed the xerox'ed cover a couple times. To be honest, I was surprised at how emotional the songs still make me. Even now that I'm more emotionally evolved -- blahblahblah -- the music moves me in similar ways. It's not melancholy music where the songs allow you to feel badly for yourself until you're all cried out. It's is all-empowering music. It makes you curl your lip at all the shit weighing you down. Makes you stomp your feet and dance around the house entranced by and intertwined in the rhythm until you're a sweaty, sobbing heap on the floor. This album means so much to me that I once wrote an entire short story based around the second song, El Diablo. I've done three literary readings in the last two years. I've read from this story each time and I always choose the part of the story where I sing one of the lines from the song: "Pero yo tambien soy fuerte, y yo no caigo Lucifer." But I'm strong too, and I'm not falling because of you, Devil. And obviously Devil means anything, everything dragging at you. I heard the song again for the first time yesterday, blarring it in my car like it needs to be, and I sucked in my breath at certain verses and didn't fight the tears. I thought, That's right, tu no puedes con migo -- you can't fuck with me. I'll fight all that weighs me down until I can't any more. The song Indestructible does the same thing to me. As the deep congas and the cracking bongo and the timbales and blasting horns and the percussive piano and the base of the song converge into a religious experience, the vocalist sings, "In this moment, everything is possible." And I believe it. I really do.
The door to music was really opened to me twenty years ago when I dated a conga player, The Congero. We met when I was asked to dance in a show. We danced Caribbean folk dances in a progression around a night club to marching drummers that followed us. As a favor, The Congero played for the dancers. He had played with Mongo Santamaria and many other greats. He was an amazing musician. His mind worked in ways I had not witnessed before; he brilliantly saw patterns of music beyond sheets of it. He was engrossed with anything rhythmic and to him that meant everything. Everything had rhythm. Anything could be played as a percussive instrument. His specialty besides the congas was bongo and during his solos he would jump off stage and with the drum between his knees he'd walk to someone in the audience and play rhythms alternately off their legs and off the bongo. He could find the off beat, the dead-on beat, the in between, the syncopated, the beat wanting to be a beat, but what I thought he did most amazingly was play melodic congas. He would tune five congas to different notes, and he'd play a song like, Ain't No Sunshine on the drums. It was so beautiful and sad sounding this way.
If you date a percussionist seriously, there are certain things you are required to know. The basics of rhythm. How to find the clave in salsa which is an underlying ancient African rhythm that all salsa is based on. You need to know how to differentiate between drums and between rhythms. As a dancer, this was not hard and I wanted to learn every nuance. Every tiny beat I wanted to know what it was and why it was what it was. The more I learned the more obvious it became that everything is in fact rhythm and that a drum will only call you back to that fact.
Other than his musicianship, the other great thing about The Congero was that he was the first person that told me regularly that I was smart. He recognized my intuitive intelligence even though I had no formal education. I wasn't sure if I was dumb or smart. This wasn't a self depreciation thing. I just really was unsure if my thinking was relatable to anyone else. But he pumped up my smarts. Almost daily. And he genuinely made me believe it.
It all sounds like a dream, doesn't it? But sadly, The Congero was a lying, selfish cheat. He was a Taker. Three years we dated, and I was a dedicated little servant. I cooked and cleaned and laundered and served. I was known in the salsa circle as The Congero's woman and I was respected and treated well. But just because I was the queen didn't mean The Congero wasn't fucking every girl that crossed his path at the local clubs and on the road. I don't think I'm exaggerating the "everyone" part. I call it Pussy on a Platter Syndrome. That's what musicians have. Every woman was turned on by The Congero's musicianship and that kind of attention is hard to refuse, I imagine. I turned an eye from it for most of the three years we were together. I let him talk me out of my "paranoia" many times. Until I found naked photos of one of his lovers packed in a bag as he was about to go on tour. I was done then. Done. He was defensive and told me to leave. And I did. I left and never looked back. And then his pleading began. The marriage proposals, the promises, all the things I wished he'd said before. He begged for years. Begged. For years. But my light for him had been permanently extinguished. Tu no puedes con migo. When the light was gone, I felt bad for him, not angry. He was tormented for a very long time for his inability to be loyal to a good woman. He still may be. As for me, I got the good end of this stick. I just had to pay a very high price in exchange for two life-changing things: A belief in my own intelligence, and an education in the complexity of rhythm, in all its forms.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Lord, he's handsome.
And for Gratuitous Gorgeousness Friday, the Sisters Pug. Here's Carmen the morning after she sprained her ankle and immediately after coming home from the vet. How bummed does she look? She busted her wheel because she and Lupe were fucking around like they do every day and night and they fell off the couch in a whirl of fawn fur. There's Lupe, too, feeling guilty, trying to make her sister feel with her presence.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
When I explained what that meant, she was excited to hear stories about important women, even if these stories will only be told by me. Apparently, this is not on the school's agenda.
For Black History month, the Orange County public school system talked a lot about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks -- which, thank god-- but many important leaders and figures were neglected. But it is difficult ---and ridiculous-- to have to cram the history of so many significant people into 28 short days. Anyway, in terms of the civil rights movement, I always talk to Maya about Malcolm X too. I tell her, "Many people don't want to talk as much about his contributions." I imagine our conservative school system would think they were promoting violence or radical activism, but I explain to Maya, "If you were told you were less than human, and not allowed to have basic human rights, wouldn't you want to rise up and physically fight against that?" Maya asked, "What if they had worked together more, Malcolm and Martin?" I said, "They were fighting the same war, but in two different ways. And that's ok." I also tried to explain that George Washington came to this country and organized his group to take a stand against mistreatment, and Patrick Henry proclaimed, "Give me liberty or give me death", and these things are regarded as historically heroic. Malcolm X was basically doing the same. Washington and his crew were not non-violent. They were fighting for freedoms. Why is one heroic and the other radically dangerous?
I tell her, "Just keep in mind that the spin on history is not always what it seems."
Pieces come together for her in conversations like these. Especially when the complexity of discrimination is put in more relatable terms. I see it in her face: Things are not always what they seem. Examine situations from all angles. She is getting this slowly.
So, now we're cramming for Women's History Month; a month to display our brave groundbreakers and prove that they are still important, and that we still need them. The empowering that goes on in my house is a year-round event. It doesn't stop because I'm aware that the issue of women's rights still gets eye rolls by the majority of people. And I'm aware that the strength of my girls still needs to be validated and fought for outside of our house even if they are completely unaware of this. But I gladly clear the brush for the groundbreaking they will do in their lifetime.
Today in TaeKwonDo, my six year old Mina had sparring. She is excited by sparring because she's good at it. She was paired with an older, taller and shyer girl. And Mina wailed on her. I heard one mom say to the other, "What is she doing? She's so rough." Then they realized I was behind them. They turned around and giggled backbitingly. "Boy, Mina is so tough," a mom said fakely. I said, "Yea, well her sister's a black belt and they go at it at home." She said, "They're the ones that did that dance at Christmas time?" I nodded. She said, "Mina was so sweet then. What happened?" And the words What Happened made me want to snatch her tongue from her mouth. I said smiling, "This is TaeKwonDo. She puts on the sparring gear and spars. She's tough." They nodded and as she turned back around I could feel her eyes rolling at the unladylikeness. It saddened me profoundly. Because had they been our sons, nothing would have been said at all. It would not have been "cute" that my girls take TKD seriously or that they want to be masters some day or make the Olympics or own their own studios.
When we left, I high fived Mina for her great work, and we went home to tell Maya and Papi the story. I told Maya, "See? This is why we need reminding of women's history because sometimes people forget that we can do anything." And Papi said, "Just sing them the song already." And I told them the I Am Woman story and then I belted out what I could remember. The girls laughed and it was their turn to high five me.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Here's my first entry for SPT's March theme which is suppose to capture The Progression of Time.
Here's the progression of my new, awesome short story. Viva la Process 'cause writing is fun, kids!
Sunday, March 05, 2006
And yet I went to a Catholic elementary school where the girls weren't allowed play with the boys and where we had to wear dresses as uniforms. I was confused. The God represented at school seemed exclusionary and wrong. I felt I was being tested by a higher spirit to fight the injustice presented to me. I felt I had to carry on the battle as I was taught outside of the school walls, like I was a child solider for women's rights. I played kick ball and dodgeball with the boys regardless of the rules. I got into shoving matches with boys as I stood my ground against their ignorance. I'd say things like, "Tatum O'Neil is a good actor." While my classmates shouted that she was an AC-TRESS. And I'd say, "Men and women act so they are both actors." I could never get this to catch on. In fourth grade, my mother was called by the principal because I nonchalantly questioned the priest's stand on abortion in front of my class and my teacher. He was making a passing comment about the evils in the world and after he rattled off abortion as one of them, I raised my hand and said, "What if a girl is raped or in trouble or can't have a baby?" I remember the room going mute. They were aghast, looking at each other. I was regurgitating the feminist rhetoric for sure because they were the ones that shouted that I could do anything. They were the ones that celebrated goddessness and the power of my girlhood. Not the red-faced priests or the nuns in bondage.
At the end of fourth grade, I signed up for the annual talent show. When I told my mother that I was going to participate, she said, "What will you do? Dribble a basketball across the stage?" Which I felt was a fucked thing to say considering all her boisterous friends claimed I could DO ANYTHING. Everyday after school I practiced my act. I put on the music and did my thing for hours until my mother got home from work. When she took me to the auditorium the night of the talent show, she still did not know what I was going to do. I handed Sister Mary Theresa my album and told her to play the first song. I walked out on stage and though I was nearly blinded by the lights overhead I could see many parents and the smattering black and white of the priests' suits and the nuns' habits. My music began and at the top of my nine year old voice I belted out Helen Reddy's I Am Woman. "I am woman hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore and I know too much to go back and pre-t-e-e-end." I could hear giggles in the audience, but that didn't make me feel bad. I felt they were diggin it. When the bridge came, I really went for it: "Wwhhoooa, YES I am wise, but it's wisdom born of pa-in. Yes, I paid the price, but look how much I've gained. I am strong. STRONG. I am invincible. INVINCIBLE. I am wwoooo-mmaannn!" I was thrilled, man. I felt charged by saying things so powerful so loudly, and I could see my mother just beyond the lights sitting on a fold-out chair with her mouth slightly open.
Afterward, the nuns laughed and shook their heads at me. They made comments that I took too many vitamins and that if they didn't watch me close enough I'd be "swinging from the chandeliers." But I really thought I was the child solider. That I was fighting the good fight.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
I completely forgot about this photo booth "project" I did back when I was nineteen and all deep and shit. I didn't actually go to UC Berkeley. I just wandered around the campus like a fool hoping I'd get a degree via osmosis, through big prayers. Hmm, not much has changed.
During this time, I lived at the University Hotel on Shattuck. I rented a small room which overlooked the avenue, and it had flimsy walls, a saggy twin dressed in over-bleached sheets and a pedestal sink. An oxidized mirror hung above the sink, but I don’t remember a dresser in the room. But I built a bookshelf out of scraps of wood. It was like an altar for the few books I had transported in one box in the '79 Ford Escort which had blown a head gasket within seconds of reaching Berkeley. I had left the car where it died a few blocks north of Telegraph. The door to my room, Room 2, had been painted brown about seven billion times over every kick and punch mark. It was also miscut letting in triangles of hall light, and it made the most frightening sound when rattled.
Room 2 was not a suffocating cell as some had suggested. Above my bed, I had hung a Georgia O’Keefe poster of a bull’s skull that floated against a water-blue sky and a clean, beige desert. I had one lamp that gave off pretty lighting; lighting that I imagined would be in the finest of homes or rooms because of how it illuminated my books and my poster and my bed. I’d sit on the skin-thin charcoal carpet -- the type that lines garages -- and I read Alice Walker and Garcia Marquez and I listened to my radio. Once the sun set on Shattuck, the confrontations began and no matter what time it was, even when they woke me at every hour, I strained to hear what they argued about, what they were shouting. Why were they shouting at three in the morning? I’d peek over the window sill, a half a foot above my bed and I squinted to see their expressions as they slurred their words when they fought.
Every resident of the University Hotel shared one bathroom which, from Room Number 2, was two doors to the left and six doors towards the interior of the hotel. Walking down the hall towards the bathroom, the light dimmed to darkness as the hall disappeared deeper into the hotel. It was a precarious trek to the bathroom. I would always hesitate to go from the lighter side of the hall to the darkness. The energy did not swirl; it was stuck in place. You waded through the vibe to get to the bathroom. You didn’t have to hear the rumors and stories of the University Hotel to feel the thickness of the hall.
Every Monday night, I took a long bath in the bathroom because it was cleaned on Monday afternoon. Through the hall I ran with my shampoo that I used for bubbles and my soap and my towel; a set of clean clothes. I’d lock the bathroom door quickly and pretend the bathroom was my own. The toilet was chipped and the lighting was grim; one exposed 40 watt bulb. The floor was grey-white and patterned with tiny octagon tiles. There were many tiles missing from the floor exposing the concrete beneath. Large, permanent orange streaks like brush strokes ran from the tub’s faucet to the drain. But it was clean on Monday nights and I filled it with soapy hot water and I would slip into my fabricated luxury. I closed my eyes and relaxed there until the water was tepid and until I wondered too much whether the bath tub was really clean at all.
I suppose I'm also deeming the end of the week: Gratuitous Gorgeousness Fridays. Here's Maya washing dishes. It was only a matter of time before I could get her to dance. There's also a picture of Papi & Mina & Lupe watching a basketball game. Happy Friday, familia. This is a long way from the University Hotel, from where I'm standing.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Maile and I met at a writing conference eight years ago. We were in the same group workshop. And that year I met and connected with two of my favorite people: Maile and Honduro. I've remained close with both. Honduro had caught my attention at the conference because his story was told in the perspective of a college girl who gets drunk on spring break and ends up sloppily -- sans purse and dignity -- on a beach in Mexico. It was funny and real and sad. And I noticed Maile because she had wild red hair surrounding a conservative, shy face. She was generous and intelligent. And every time she spoke, I listened.
While Honduro and I are like two sibling-like goofballs that can ramble about everything from important matters to the nonsensical, Maile and I are very different, in backgrounds and interests. We don't always talk a lot but we have an underlying connection that I don't think either of us could explain. It's like we are two hooks traveling in opposite directions that have linked together while passing each other; we like being hooked together in this way even if we don't understand the bond. She makes efforts to come to birthday parties. She visited me days after Mina was born with farmers market goodies. And she has always been a huge supporter of my fiction, which humbles me to near discomfort. I offer my teeny tiny support for her. I'll drive far to hear her read. I'll buy all her books, new and hardcovered. I'll wait in long lines to get them signed, and when I get to the front of the line, I hold it up because as we try to catch up in small minutes. And because I had brought her a slice of vegan cheesecake because, y'know, that's how I say congratulations for writing a NY Times praised novel.
She reads her work beautifully. Confidently with a slight Montana accent though I didn't know there was such a thing before I met her. I don't have another friend from Montana to verify this, but let's just pretend there is such an accent. Her writing work ethic is phenomenally focused and her style and voice are classic and timeless.
Last night, I listened to Maile read words from the new novel in a crowded and famous old bookstore where the lighting is institutional yellow and where you can still actually smell the scent of books, and I tried with all my might to breathe in some inspiration to get more focused about my own writing. I breathed in and out. I lost grasp of her words a couple times, selfishly, because I was reconnecting myself to thought, to pen, to paper. I tried to draw a jolt of drive from her. And she gave it to me, unselfishly, because that's what kind of friendship we have.
I walked back to my car after the reading and the air smelled like night-blooming jasmine. It was an exact smell of when I was a kid walking in spring-time nights in Santa Monica, and it caused my breath to pitch high in my throat. I would've walked the few miles to the beach on a trail of the jasmine if I didn't have such a long drive back. That is something I do -- I suppose many people do -- in fits of inspiration; just walk or drive. So, on the drive back, I played no radio and I tried to sort it all out in mind. I know I can make this all work somehow, the job, the family, the this, the that, the writing. I know if I just concentrate, focus, I can get it all done. And I sorted and I thought. Forty five minutes later I had the first three lines of a new story that I had started a few days ago. I just kept repeating the three lines over and over because I didn't want to write them on scrapes of paper while driving on the freeway late at night. Not like I haven't done that before or read stories in moderately slow moving traffic, but I decided to play it safe and just repeat the words. When home, I typed out the three lines. The initial thrill had passed because I realized, glaringly, that it took me an inspired hour to come up with just three lines. I considered jumping back in my car for a jaunt down to Costa Rica to possibly eek out a full page or two.
I want to drop kick the I Can Do It All notion off of my second-story balcony. But it's the best option I got right now. I need it all: the job, the family, the writing, the this and the that. Tomorrow I'll try to focus again and come up with lines four and five. Maybe six even.