Panorama of San Bernardino

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Under the inland empire sun

In high school, I had blue black hair and a pierced nostril. I wore a uniform of sorts. A punk rock tee (usually my Sex Pistols one) and red thermals with monkey boots and I put male boxers over my thermals and a men's thrift store bought vest over my tee. I would line my eyes like Cleopatra and add bright red lipstick.

I was trying to morph from goofy goody two shoes to punk rock girl. Trying to change into someone darker to match my insides. Looking back, I was trying to find myself. And find myself I did, discovering myself in the music of that time. I found solace from the chaos of home in bands like The Smiths, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Replacements, The Pixies, Joy Division, The Sex Pistols and of course, the Los Angeles punk bank X. It was the melodies and harmonies of John Doe and Exene Cervanka that attracted me at first. I was always drawn to the melody within the chaos. Then I read their lyrics and it was pure poetry. Real poetry hidden within the music. It captivated me.

While I no longer look the part of a punk rock girl for the most part, my musical obsessions have remained the same. I still try to go to shows as much as I can. It brings something out in me. I feel free and happy at a concert. Like I can do anything at all. All the misery goes away. The pain of my infertility struggles, my dad's death around this time almost a decade ago, my clients' legal criminal problems, the deaths of all my rock icons this year along with the lingering dark depression I have had since my teenage wasteland years. It all goes away, and vanishes with a poof, with the opening strings of a Billy Zoom guitar riff.

Tonight, my husband and I are celebrating forty years of X at the Roxy in Hollywood. I'll line my eyes with thick eyeliner, I'll put on my high socks and monkey boots and my X tee covered by a blue cowboy sweater and I'll scream with excitement when they come on. I'll sing along to every song jumping up and down like a maniac and remember what it feels like to be young under an Inland Empire sun.




Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mantz Girl

I am finishing up season seven of Gilmore Girls. I happened upon the show more than a decade late, but it has become one of my (and my 82 year old mother-in-law's) favorite shows. There is something about the way it captures mother and daughter friendship and femaleness, as well as music and pop culture. But, in the end, it is most about the character of Rory. She wants to be a journalist and ends up as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

I had a similar experience in college, albeit on a much less elite scale. I was editor-in-chief of the Mountaineer, my junior college's newspaper. It is an experience that I have written about before. I loved layout, headlines and editing. There was nothing like last minute deadlines to give me a rush. It was my first love and I fell head over heels.

In the seventh season, Rory fails to get her journalism internship and is questioning her path. I faced a similar conundrum. I had to transfer to a four year university and the question was, where to? My advisor on the paper was named Gina and she had worked for the Washington Post. She wanted me to apply to Columbia for journalism, but I was too scared. New York seemed so far away and such a huge city. I was a pink collar waitress girl from the Inland Empire. A high school dropout, I had waitressed my way through Mt. SAC after taking my GED and had gotten almost straight As (damn that Algebra II class that I eventually got a B in after much consternation). It just seemed too much of a stretch to see myself in New York City in the Ivy Leagues.

Now it was time to make a decision that could impact the rest of my life. I could go anywhere I knew in theory. Transfer students with high GPAs were in high demand, I knew this. But in my heart, I was boxed in, I couldn't see a path ahead. How would I support myself in NYC?

I decided to apply to UC Riverside. I got in, of course. They didn't have a journalism program, so I decided to major in English Literature. I never worked on the school paper because as a junior it was hard to break in. But here's the rub. Despite the fact that I chose the path of least resistance, I think I made the right decision. UC Riverside was a wonderful supportive environment. I met two great friends there, Emily and Gina, who were both English majors as well. We ruled the school, at least in our minds. I studied James Joyce under a Joyce scholar. I ended up with a nice scholarship and as a result, in my last year at UCR, I didn't need to work for the first time in my life.

At the end of my UCR tenure of a too brief two years, I applied to USC Law and got in. I was floored. I knew my life would change. And it did. And I can only hope that I ended up in the right place at the public defender's office helping the mentally ill and protecting their legal rights. I am not a journalist, but I am a defender of the US Constitution.

Yet, here I am, twenty years later, my junior college days a mere hazy memory, and I am still writing. My nonfiction has been published in literary journals, I have done readings and even a performance at a real theater. My stories are out there, one was taught in a class. It is unbelievable if you think about it.

That's the thing. Sometimes, your dreams find you.

Despite it all, your dreams find you.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thank You God It's Me Juanita

Thankfulness can be a stretch for me. Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, my little sister Annette, who is not so little anymore at 42, says, "Everyone say what they're thankful for."

We go around the dining table and it always sounds so cliche. Everyone says the same things: thank you for family, for friends, for the food (that's my mom's favorite), for their spouse, for economic prosperity, and on and on. It is one cliche after another. Said with the most earnest of faces. We all clap. And it is heartwarming but as a writer, and as my usual sarcastic self, I yearn for the bitter irony.

Then I thought, how about this year I be thankful for something that feels like a curse? I should be thankful for my infertility. And for not bringing a child into the world who will have to live under the darkest of Lords, akin to Sauron and Voldermort, and the Dark King.

He who shall not be named. Please don't make me say his name.

Before the election, I wept over my childless life. For the last nine or so years, I cried and prayed asking why or why over my lack of little ones. After failed IVF and a miscarriage and years of trying, it is something I have had to reconcile.

My lack of kids has vexed me. Irritated me. Saddened me. It has left a pit of despair in my heart because I am a maternal person. Just ask my two Shih-Tzus Frodo (hence the Sauron reference) and Chewbaca. They are my furry princes complete with red Christmas capes. I am their Queen mother. Up until now, my fur kids have not been enough to fill the void in my heart.

Then the unthinkable happened. And now, I thank God for my unproductive, barren, infertile, dry and empty womb.

Because my child will never have to know what it is like to deal with what is to come. I will not have to explain the hate, the lies, the corruption, the civil rights destroyed and laid asunder. I will not have to tell dark and true bedtime stories of utter terror. I will not have to be afraid that my child will know nuclear war.

This Thanksgiving, we are forgoing family time and going to the den of depravity, Las Vegas. It feels fitting. It suits my mood. And on that day of thanks, I will sit at a slot machine and raise my beer to toast my bunless oven in these worst of times.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A recipe for the times

In the book 1984 by Orwell, there is a famous quote, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." That is how I feel this Sunday after the election. Stomped upon. My hope is almost nonexistent. Now, I do not know if Trump is the next Hitler or Mussolini, but what I do know is that there is the very real possibility that America just elected a fascist dictator into the White House.

I always say that if you want to know who someone is, just listen to their words. And we have listened and listened to Trump. We have heard him scapegoat and rant on Mexicans, Muslims, the undocumented, women, and most of all Hillary. And we have watched his actions. We have seen Trump raise his hand in a Nazi style salute to his crowds. The violence and hate, it was all too crazy at first to even believe.

And Hillary, poor Hillary. She played by the rules and had proper decorum.  But, if I know one thing after representing people in 1368 incompetency proceedings, it is this: you cannot argue with crazy, and Trump is crazy. A crazy egomaniac, former reality television star billionaire, who just was elected to the highest office in the land.

Now there are those who say, just wait and see. Wait and see what? Am I supposed to wait to see if he is who I know he is? What am I, are we, waiting for?

For the boot to fall? For the presses to be silenced? For the retaliation to begin? For the mass deportation? For Newspeak (see 1984)?

What is left without hope? Faith, prayer and action. Yes, I am a believer. This punk rock girl is a lapsed Catholic (of the James Joyce variety) who somehow found her own kind of all tolerant and inclusive faith and belief in college after taking a class called Bible is Literature. In that class, I learned that the Bible is all parable and metaphor and the God of the Old Testament is an angry God. But, the New Testament was different. Jesus was all about the love. To me, whether one believes Jesus was a prophet or the literal son of God does not matter, because his words and actions were what mattered. Jesus told us not only to love our neighbor, but to also pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44) And to let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds. (Matthew 5:16).

So that is what I will do. Faith, prayer and action. A recipe for these times. Because I have to believe that they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What If?

I sit at a table for two by myself in a Starbucks in Houston, Texas. I down my double shot of expresso and walk over to have some lunch at Madeline's, my favorite spot for french onion soup. I slurp my soup and eat my salad head down reading a memoir called With or Without You. It's Saturday, but I have a brief due on Monday so I have to go into the office. Then, there's the Gala for the Arts benefit tonight.

I made partner and I live in a sparkling modern penthouse in midtown Houston. I drive a Jaguar. This is the life I always dreamed of while going to school and waiting tables. This is what the years of struggle were all about. But, why do I feel so empty?

It could be because I am all alone. I have friends here in Houston, and three black cats, but my family is in Southern California. Dad died some years ago and I barely had time to fly home for the funeral. For the next couple of years, I worked through the grief and sadness, working eighty hours a week at times. I was a human robot, a legal machine.

My sisters call me every week but I am abrupt with them. Mom is still alive but she lives with my twin sister Jackie in Palm Springs.

I thought I would be married by now, with kids and all that, but when Adrian got into UCSF dental school three years ago, I didn't follow.

Taking the California Bar seemed tiring. Our more than a decade together fell away and we drifted apart and finally broke up. I think about Adrian often. I see his thick black hair and hazel brown eyes in my mind's eye and think about the way he had of always making me feel safe and secure. Some things pass you by. You should grab those moments because if you don't, they are gone forever and it's as if you live in an alternate universe of your very own creation.

I leave Starbucks and walk through the outdoor shopping area by Rice University. I can buy whatever I want, but what I want can't be bought. I look at the sparkly dresses in the expensive boutiques but know nothing will fit. It's Lane Bryant or the plus size department at Macy's.

I walk into Lane Bryant. "Can I help you find anything?" a plus size redhead asks me in a perky Southern twang. "No, I'm just browsing," I reply walking out of the store. I don't want to shop at the fat girl store anymore. Tears blur my eyes. I don't want this lonely workaholic existence. I step off the curb and trip in my expensive Manalos that fat girls should not wear and my head hits the pavement.

I wake up in a comfy king size bed. Adrian snores beside me. Our two shih tzus Frodo and Chewbaca lay on the bed, one on each side of me. I walk downstairs and make myself a cup of coffee. Framed punk rock posters adorn the walls. There is a pile of concert tickets to be used. The house is huge and decorated like I always wanted my house to be, a mix of eclectic and modern. I see my deputy public defender card on the coffee table along with a poster announcing my live nonfiction reading.

We don't have kids, that did pass us by, but we have a mother in law in our downstairs bedroom and my mom visits often as do my sisters and I have weekly meet ups with my best friends from high school Tracy and Melinda. Adrian and I hang out in the jacuzzi most nights listening to the Cure and The Smiths watching the stars.

Is this really my life? Did I really make it here. Yes, it is.

The other life was just a bad dream.



Sunday, October 9, 2016

That joke isn't funny anymore

As I listen to my mother in law snoring, I think about where I am. Where I've been. And, where I'm meant to go. I sit legs outstretched typing this story on my phone while sitting on a cold bathroom floor in a rundown hotel in state line.

Escapism has always been my modus operandi to quell the anxiety sitting on the edges of my brain. I want to be happy, free and joyful, but the last couple of days have taught me that the old joke, the one where I escape my life through partying, is not so fun or funny anymore.

I'm tired. I'm 45 and overweight but I'm working on that. I want to look good and feel good and I'm realizing that a healthy lifestyle is not just about calories, but about living clean.

Last nite, I yearned for my dogs and cuddling with my husband in my warm bed at home and wondered silently, what is so wrong with my life that I'm trying to escape from? Nothing is the answer. My life is good. It's just that self destructive bent in me that needs to see how low the bottom of self despair can be.

On the outside, I am a happy person. I need to get there on the inside. I need to realize that this life is all I have and I need to grasp it with both hands and shake it into being.

And then maybe, just maybe, I can see that there was no joke to begin with. And there is nothing to run from. Only to.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Confessions of a Goth Girl Turned Lawyer On All Hallow's Eve

I love Halloween. Let me repeat that. I love Halloween. I love the pumpkins on doorsteps, the skeletons hanging from doorways, the witches with cauldrons, the costumes, the candy, and the scent of fall in the air which smells like cinnamon and leaves crushed together.

As a former goth/punk girl (at least my exterior does not show it, inside I remain the same), my adoration for Halloween might be called cliché, or at the very least expected. Mind you, I do not care if I am judged. This is my holiday and I relish it every year, awaiting the sight of the big orange banners tied across the rented storefronts proclaiming that Halloween has arrived. I have even been known to clap and yell aloud to my husband, "Yes, it's here! Halloween is here!"

Every Halloween, I decide on a costume theme and execute it to perfection. Last year, along with my husband and our best friends, we were The Munsters and The Adams Family. I wore a long black dress with spider web sleeves and a long, black mistress of the dark wig. The year before, we dressed as characters from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I proudly twirled in my gold top hat and sequined top with short shorts as Columbia (although I did not tap dance). My best friend was the mad maid Magenta. The year before that, my husband and I were Danny and Rizzo from Grease (I am no Sandra Dee). Before that, we dressed as Alice in Wonderland characters. Before that, super heroes. Every year, it's something new.

I don't know if it is the process of reinvention that I adore, or whether it is the spookiness of the dark nights of this pagan All Hallow's Eve that I react to, but what I do know is that there is something magical about it all. As if everything could change in an instant and transport me into another portal.

As a lawyer, I put on a costume every day in order to have the authority that my USC law degree entitles me to along with my suit of a costume (I feel sorry for those lawyers for whom it is not a costume, because I would much rather be wearing jeans and a punk rock tee most days). I appear before a robed judge on a bench and make requests, arguments, even demands. But, there is a deference I must have. I must play by the rules. Decorum is everything. And, I believe in the formality of it all. It is like church. After all, these are people's lives I am dealing with.

Yet, sometimes, I want to scream and shout in the courtroom at the absurdity of it all or laugh out loud like the Mad Hatter. And, other times, I want to cry over the sadness and misery of it all. But, I do neither.

Instead, on Halloween I reinvent myself. And for one day a year, I get to play someone other than myself.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Dreamland

They tell me I have anemia and they prescribe iron which causes constipation which causes in turn, a urinary track infection. They give me pills that turn my pee orange to dull the pain and make the bladder numb. I think to myself, if only they had that for my broken, beating heart.

A couple weeks ago, I twisted my foot and hit my heel hard on my stairs resulting in fat pad syndrome where the heel of your foot is painful and tender whenever you walk. Taping my feet with athletic tape, I shake my head at myself and go buy Dr. Scholl's sandals and wear them instead of my monkey boots. Welcome to middle age. It should be called muddle age because you're forced to muddle through.

Many of my friends are sending their kids off to high school and/or college. I am still dreaming of a baby. Or at least a toddler in my arms. Lately, I've been dreaming that I am pregnant and walking around in dreamland elated singing lullabies.  Every night at 3 a.m., I wake up from the dream sweating as my pre-menopausal hot flash self and am sadly disappointed. Yet, I am also disappointed in myself for feeling disappointed. Buckle up, I think to myself, you should be used to this dull ache by now.

Still, I feel as if I am living two lives, one in my dreams, and one when I wake up.

Wake up, get up, is all I can tell myself. Accept this life, with all of its limitations. But, sadly, or not so sadly, I have never been one to settle for anything less than what I really want. The reality I crave may not exist, or maybe it exists only in dreamland, but I can still hope and pray that change is on the horizon.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The little engine that could

I think I can. I think I can. Those are the words running through my brain, full steam ahead, as I lay on the table, the probe of the ultrasound inside me. I can get through this. I can.

We can start the IVF process again. All the tests and the probing. The blood work. The estrogen. The shots. The money. All that fucking money. The hopes and dreams. The prayers.

My last ultrasound was horrific. It was two years ago and I was almost ten weeks pregnant after IVF with a donor egg. They couldn't hear a heart beat on the regular external ultrasound so they ordered a transvaginal one. The news was not good. The ovum was blighted, My baby was gone. The doctor told me matter of factly. I will never forgive him for his stoic professionalism.

It has been a long road to start the fertility process again after the horrible miscarriage. A big mistake I made was to allow the miscarriage to occur naturally at home, I am forever traumatized.

It took me almost a year to even feel anything close to normal again. I moved through my days on autopilot. I started having panic attacks while driving. My whole body would be covered in a sheen of sweat, my hands dripping so much water it made the steering wheel slippery. I would pull over and cry. Cars would drive by me going eighty miles an hour probably wondering why someone would pull over on the Cajon Pass. It was dangerous, but I didn't care. I was barren and forty-something. Childless. Hopeless.

I would think, let them hit me. Put me out of my misery. Let me start over, Maybe I would come back as a butterfly. Or as a woman with eight kids. People don't talk about having those kind of thoughts, but I have to be truthful with how bad it was. It was only with the help of a supportive therapist that I got through the darkness and saw the light again.

The light shined straight into my eyes in the ultrasound room and I blinked. The ultrasound technician was very kind and reassuring. As if she knew how hard the process was for me. She was wearing pink scrubs with dogs on them and had frizzy blond hair and Buddy Holly glasses. "Are you OK?" she asked again and again.

I nodded my head and whispered, "Yes. I think so. I think so. I think I am."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Inked

All I could think this morning was, I've inked my skin. I am no longer the good twin.

Yesterday, I stopped at a tattoo parlor in Upland. I had just met my best friend for a late lunch in Pomona after leaving work early. It was a Friday. I felt free blasting a Strokes album driving down Foothill Blvd from Claremont where I had stopped off at Rhino to buy the album in anticipation of their concert in a couple of weeks. I had seen a certain tattoo shop before and almost passed the driveway, but at the last minute I braked and made a sharp right turn to pull into the parking lot. The car behind me screeched to a stop and I shrugged at the car in my rear view mirror.

I sat in the parking lot in my car and changed the CD to hear a Bowie tune, Moonage Daydream, from the Ziggy Stardust album. I felt invincible. Blasting great music always makes me feel that way. I felt younger and lighter. I had wanted a Bowie tattoo since the day he died and had been planning it for months. I thought to myself, l'll just have them draw it out.

I walked in and a punk rock dude with a pierced face and stretched ears said, "Hey." Then he bent his face back down to his work. A woman was laying face down on a reclining chair grimacing as he inked in a tattoo on her lower back. Another guy named Billy (a big guy with arms sleeved with tattoos) looked up from a desk on the opposite side of the room and said, "How can I help you?" Billy's eyes looked kind and that stopped me from running away.

I felt like a poser in my black and pink Bowie shirt. At least I had done my winged eyeliner that morning. I pushed the words out. "I wanna get a Bowie tattoo. The lightning bolt. The red and blue one. From the Aladdin Sane album," I said quickly, my stomach buckling.

His eyes lit up. "Cool!" he said.

I showed him the pictures on my phone and I talked with him and the punk rock boy about Bowie, Iggy Pop and the New York punk scene bonding over our shared obsessions. "You wanna do it today?" Billy said with a smile." My stomach rumbled (my anxiety always starts there first) and I said, "I was just gonna make an appointment. I'm kind of scared. I have chickened out before. Six Feet Under Tattoo still has my Betty Page book." Billy smiled and said, "I got a couple hours, just do it. I can draw it right now. It just feels like a scratch."

I nodded. "Fuck it," I said. "Let's do this."

Two hours later, I lay face down, my nails digging into my palms. I had chosen my left shoulder because I have a higher pain tolerance on my back and went slightly larger than I had initially intended. Billy kept saying how great I was doing and I was surprised that I was able to get through it.

As he started the coloring in, I started thinking of my life and my journey from punk rock high school dropout to deputy public defender and I realized that the punk rock girl needed to come out more. I needed to live my life to the fullest and do all the things I was dreaming of. Like tattoos, like writing, like adopting a baby. Life was short. Recently, I had learned that the hard way.

"You're all done," Billy said with a smile. I looked at my back and smiled. I had done it. The lightning bolt would always be there to remind me to be artistic, and true and to reach for the stars.

Just like Starman.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The rock

I have a rock in my chest. I haven't felt this much grief since my Dad died. The world is falling apart. One tragedy after another. The only things that help are writing, reading and my punk rock music.

I just read Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero and it transported me away. I got lost in it. Like the best kind of maze of a world, one that I never wanted to end. Gabi's world was so real to me. It was my own world as a young teen in a lot of ways. Chaos. Addiction. Choices. Gabi's story ended with her failing to walk at her high school graduation due to an altercation and suspension, but her graduation and acceptance to Berkeley remained. My high school story ended with me not graduating and watching my twin walk, sitting under the bleachers tears falling on my cigarette after dropping out five units short.

I wouldn't walk in a robe with a black cap perched on my head until my graduation from UCR almost a decade later. Three years after that, I would walk in a gold and cardinal robe to pick up a law degree from USC.

After I finished Gabi's story and put the book down, I opened Facebook and started reading about the shootings in Orlando again and tears swelled up in my eyes. Like an ocean wave, they poured down my cheeks as my husband snored. Is this the world we live in? Or some weird and evil dream?

But I know this is too real. I just want to escape from it. I want to get away from all of the sadness in my world. No more dead brown gay brothers and sisters, no more IRC shootings, and no more mother-in-laws having a stroke. And no more dad with cancer who dies at 69, leaving you in a room all alone with only words. You write just to hear his voice in your head.

Sometimes I wish I could forget my memories. Then, other times, I know the memories might look like rocks, but are really caged birds beating their wings at my mind, aching and breaking to be set free on paper.

By my hand.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

White Girl


White Girl

 "Nineteen, missing her man for an old girl

Drain every beer left over at home

And listen to ghosts in the other room


Why not you're alone inside his keeping?

Oh I'll replace your drunk old man

Sit in the parking lot and hold you're hand


Easy to fall, part of your skull starts to break away

Drugged and in love out at a club, pulling me outside

She's a white girl, but I'm living with a white girl. 

She's a white girl, but I'm living with a white girl."
 

X-White Girl


            I was in second grade at Mariposa Elementary when one of the Mexican girls at school called me white girl.  I knew she was wrong.  I wasn't a white girl.  I saw myself as Mexican with some white thrown in.  My Mexican mom grew up middle class in Orange County.  Mom loved country music and cowboys and met my German dad at a honky tonk bar.  My dad grew up dirt poor in Montana and loved country music, drinking and fiery, brown women.  Mom was not the first of his four wives, but she was his last.
 
            The white girls saw me as Mexican and thought I should hang with the girls they called "the cholas".  Most of the so-called cholas were Mexican girls who wore karate slip on shoes with fitted pants and black jackets.   One of my favorite people in the world at the time was my older cousin Carol from Buena Park who some considered a chola.  I would have liked to hang out with the cholas, but I was a nerd, preppie girl who always sat at the front of the class and the so called cholas made fun of me for not speaking Spanish.   I was never lonely because I had my twin sister Jackie to hang out with at breaks (they had put us in separate classes by this time).

            In second grade, I met a Mexican girl who would become my best friend, Melinda who everyone called Mel.  Mel was a clotheshorse and she made fun of the cholas' outfits behind their backs.   Mel was born in Mexico and spoke Spanish and despite her disdain, the cholas accepted her.  Mel hung out with different groups depending on her mood. 

            "Everyone says you're smart," Mel said with a smile.  "But what are you wearing?" she said with a raised eyebrow as she stared at the green frog t-shirt that I had paired with blue flared Dittos.  The outfit had seemed like a good idea that morning.

            Mel shopped at Mervyn's and she made a face when I told her that my mom shopped for our clothes at K-Mart.   Everyone wanted to be friends with Mel and I desperately wanted her to like me. She was everything I was not.  She had straight black hair that she wore spiked up and perfect bronze colored skin.  She favored jean jackets and tight jeans and even back then in elementary school, she was the epitome of cool.  Mel was also bossy and sarcastic and popular with the boys.  When she invited Jackie and I over her house after school, I tried to act nonchalant by saying, "sure" when I felt like screaming "yes".  Our younger sister Annie tagged along because it turned out that Mel had a little sister named Pam that was Annie's age.

            Mel and Pam lived with their parents in a tiny apartment down the street from us on the corner of G Street and Grove.  Mel's mom Mary was in her early twenties. Mary got pregnant with Melinda at the age of fifteen in Mexico.  Mary was lonely because she didn't drive and Mel's dad Arturo was always at work.  After a couple of visits, Mary started watching my sisters and I almost every day because Mom didn't want us home alone after school while she worked the split shift (Mom called it the fuck you over shift) at a local Chinese restaurant.           

            As an after school treat, Mary would make us posole soup with homemade tortillas on the side which was a sharp change from the prepackaged macaroni and cheese my mom made us or the stews and beef roast that my dad cooked.  "Sientate," Mary would say and all us girls would crowd around her tiny kitchen table slurping our bowls of soup.   After our snack, we would walk to the liquor store on the corner to buy the salted plums covered with chili powder that Mel had introduced us to.

            Mary and Mom became friends.  If Mom got off early, she would come by and sit with Mary in the kitchen drinking cup after cup of coffee talking in Spanish.  Mel would make me laugh by mimicking how Mom put spoon after spoon of sugar in her coffee.

            If Mom didn't get off early, Dad would pick us up when he got off his shift at Mayflower Moving Company.  Dad was often late and would drive up in his pickup truck with the smell of beer on his breath.   Mary would shake her head and say with her Spanish accent, "John you're drunk. Can you drive?"  Dad would wave her off and load us into the car swerving to Johnny Cash the four blocks home.

          My sisters and I didn't bring friends home because if Mom was having a bad day she would tell people off.  Mel and Pam became the exception to that rule because Mel handled my mom's varying moods with ease and didn't react when my mom yelled and called her a bitch.

            Mel and I didn't talk about race at all.  We knew we were brown.  That was obvious.  I loved hearing Mel talk Spanish to her mom even though Mel was hesitant to do so.  She wanted her mom to learn English.  I was jealous of this other world of rolled out Rs.  It seemed romantic. 

            If asked, Mom would say that she didn't teach us Spanish because Dad hated when Mom's brothers made fun of him in Spanish.  My uncles called Dad barracho wedo which we knew meant drunk white man.  In truth, Mom's reasons for withholding her native tongue were much more complicated.  Mom was the only non-white girl in her Orange County elementary school class.  Years later, Mom showed me her black and white elementary school photo and she looked like a small dark spot in a class of white faces.  Mom looked at the picture and shook her head with a frown and said, "It was hard being the only Mexican girl.  They didn't let you speak Spanish." 

            I knew, even at a young age, that color mattered.  Annie was sixteen months younger than us and she had Dad's lighter coloring.  People would always coo over her and say how pretty she was.  All my relatives called Annie bonita. 

            When I was in fifth grade, Mom decided we needed to be in Catholic school.  My sisters and I were upset because we would have to make new friends.  Despite our protests, Mom enrolled us at St. George's.  Mom promised we could visit Mel and Pam on the weekends.  When the school found out that Mom waitressed, they gave her a low income discount charging her one hundred dollars a month tuition for all three of us.  Even with the discount, the tuition was still a stretch and Mom struggled to buy us faded, used uniforms with her tips.  We complained the whole summer before school started.  Mom told us that we were ungrateful brats that needed to stop bitching. 
 
            The first months were hard in a new school.  All of the other kids seemed well off with their bright new uniforms.  The nuns were stern and church was mandatory every day.  And, I had to play volleyball which I was inept at.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't hold my arms right to bounce the ball off my wrist and I always ducked whenever the ball came at me.

            In sixth grade, Laura McPherson, who was the captain of the volleyball team, invited Jackie and I to a slumber party at her house.  Laura's dad was a doctor and everyone knew she was rich.  She lived in a huge Spanish style house.

            There was a girl in our class who always made fun of me.  I don't remember her name.  All I remember was that she was fat with blonde hair.  We got into a fight at the slumber party and she called me a spic wetback.  I screamed back at her, "Fuck you you fat bitch, my dad's white.  I am Mexican and white." I don't know why I said what I did.  I knew people saw me as Mexican and I liked it that way.  Maybe I wanted her to know I didn't fit in with either side. I also knew spic was a racial slur, but I didn't know what it meant.  I knew what wetback meant.  I had heard Dad's friends use the insult.  Mom hated those friends of his.  Mom said Dad's friends were a bunch of white trash drunks who were a bad influence on Dad.
 
            The spic and wetback slurs stuck in my mind during my time at St. George's.  I knew that I didn't fit in.  I would sometimes look down at my faded uniform and wish it was bright and new and the right length instead of long and faded.  When Mom put us back in public school for our seventh grade year, I was relieved.  I wanted to hang out with Mel and ride bikes with her after school and go to the liquor store and buy cigarettes.  I felt comfortable with her.  Mel knew my dad was a white drunk man and that my mom was Mexican and crazy.  She didn't care and neither did I. 

***

            It is thirty-five years later and Mel and I are still best friends.  Last week, I stopped by at her small apartment in Rancho Cucamonga and ate her homemade posole while our moms drank wine and laughed and reminisced. 

            "Remember Judy, when the girls got drunk and Mel came home with one shoe," Mary said to Mom in her Spanish accent. 

            "I remember when the girls stole John's pickup truck and drove around the neighborhood at night," Mom said with a shrug.

            "They were locas," Mary said and Mom nodded in agreement.

            I brought them coffee and watched as Mom spooned spoon after spoon of sugar in her coffee.  Mel looked at me and smiled and I tried not to laugh. I felt right at home. 

 

 

 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Knotty and Matted Life

My hair is full of knots.  I place my hand on the back of my head and feel the tangled web of hair.  It is a metaphor for my life right now.  I feel as if I am at a crossroads of sorts.  The last week has been a cold flu hell.  From Monday to Thursday, I stayed in bed unable to move or do much of anything.  I slept and tossed and turned, coughing into the same sweater I had worn for days. I did no laundry. I walked no dogs. I didn't shower or cook or clean. I barely ate. In sum, I had regressed into my most primitive survival state, as if I was in a womb gestating.

On Thursday, I got up and went into work.  I felt guilty as if taking care of myself was not the first priority.  Driving in, I knew I'd made a mistake. I got to court and couldn't stop coughing.  Any progress  I had made was all for naught and by eleven, I was done with my calendar and ordered to go home by my boss. By noon, I was at home back in bed.  I learned something that day.  I learned that that no one will take care of you, but you.  That work is not worth it and that everyone will make do without you.

Today, after downing a shot of apple cider vinegar,  I was finally able to move.  My joints creaked.  I was covered in sweat. But I was up.  Still sick, I cough as I write, but my brain is awake. My dad is on my mind.

 I think back to when my dad bought a bar called the Big O.

To this day, I don't know why the bar had that name. The Big O Bar was located about a mile away from our house in Ontario on Holt between Grove and Vineyard.

 "Why that bar John? Isn't Holt street where all the hookers hang out?" Mom said when Dad first broached the subject with her. "It's a dream Judy. There's pool tables, video games and it already has a beer and wine license. They are even going to pay us to manage the trailer park behind it."

"This could be a moneymaker Judy," Dad said trying to cajole her. Mom was a yeller and a fighter and she didn't handle fools lightly.

 Mom knew that anytime you put the words trailer park and bar together, it was trouble. She also knew that Dad loved his Budweiser which was the sorest point of contention in the debate over Dad's quest to buy the Big O.

 "Dammit John, you are going to end up drunk all day and land us in the poor house. I don't want to lose the house and if you quit your job and buy that money pit, that's what will happen. I don't know," she said, her voice trailing off. My sisters and I could all hear a note of give in Mom's voice. She was leaving the door open just a little.

 Why was she even considering this? I was only ten and could see it was a bad idea. Dad loved to drink and hang out with what Mom called the lowlifes. It may have been because Dad had always dreamed of owning either a bar or a donut shop. Dad had been talking about it since I could walk. Those two businesses may seem like an odd pair but they encompassed two of my dad's favorite things: beer and junk food. It was his dream and he was going to make it happen no matter the cost. 

Buying the bar was just like the time Dad bought a freezer full of steaks from some kid walking around the block.

 When Mom found out that not only had he bought the meat, but a freezer to house it in, she hit the roof.

 "John, you're an idiot," she told him. "You got taken. You're one of those suckers born every minute. The bill is for almost a thousand dollars. Where are we going to get that kind of money? We could have a bought a car. That's almost four months of house payments."

 "I'll make the payments," Dad had assured her with a grimace and a shake of his head. He always made a face like his stomach hurt when Mom started yelling at him. "We will get the best steaks. There's a ton of porterhouses and filet minions." (Dad was not known for his proper pronunciations.)  

"Dammit John, what are we going to do with all those steaks?" Mom asked her skepticism evident.

"Judy, there are enough steaks for an army."

 Mom shook her head. "But why'd you have to buy the freezer? We're not rich John, you're a truck driver, and I'm a god damn waitress."

"We'll eat like kings," Dad said. "The kid who came to the door said everyone on the block bought one. We can have a block barbecue."

 "Block barbecue?" Mom said with a head shake. "No one else bought one. You're a fool. My brother said you were a dumb gringo but I didn't believe him."

"Judy I don't want to fight, send the freezer back," Dad said with his stock sigh.

 "Are you gonna pay it?" Mom said. She wasn't letting up. "I'll pay it. I promise Judy. And I'll make some of my potato salad to go with those filet minions. You'll eat it." Mom had given in like she always did, "Fine John. But you're making the payment."

 Within three months, Mom was making the fifty dollar payment. Then the freezer was repossessed.

Just like with the freezer full of meat, Dad made the bar happen and within mere months of first talking about it, my parents were the owners of a bar on Holt street bordering a trailer park in the worst part of Ontario. ---------------------------------

The first year wasn't bad. Dad would take us to the bar with him every Saturday morning. We would clean the dark green felt of the pool tables with a brush and steal cigarettes from the machine. "What do you girls wanna eat?" Dad asked. "We have frozen pizza or hamburgers and fries." Dad never cared that it was only nine in the morning. I would always choose cheese pizza and Dad let me put songs on the jukebox. He had Alabama and Johnny Cash.

Even though Mom was Mexican, she loved country music. Her favorite was Freddy Fender. Dad's favorite was Loretta Lynn. I loved watching her dress up in her Western jean suit to go out with Dad to the bar. "We met at a honkey tonk", Mom would always remind us. "I always had a thing for white man cowboys."

But, us girls never listened to country. Country was for truckers like my dad and hillbillies. We preferred Pat Benetar, The Go-Go's and Olivia Newton John.

Dad taught us how to play pool at the bar and I still remember the way Dad would hold the pool stick after putting his Kent cigarette out. And we would play pinball for hours. We never wanted to leave. We played our turns in silence, with focus. Dad loved to hit the machine with his hip. "You're gonna tilt it dad" my two sisters and I would scream at him. Dad only tilted one time out of ten but he came close most of the time.

My sisters and I would fight over who got to clean the pool table but no one wanted to mop the floor. Dad would do it grumbling, "Give your ole man a break girls" Dad's knees were bad from moving furniture for years and his legs would swell to the point that he had to wear special blood pressure socks but he would mop while humming along to the sounds of the Oak Ridge Boys. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 My strongest memory of the bar was the smell. It smelled like stale cigs and old tap beer. Mom parents couldn't afford a full alcohol license so all they served was wine and beer. Dad would get plastered every night he played bartender. Patrons would buy him drinks all night and he would stumble into the house at two am and Mom would scream. And then there was the gambling. 

Eventually, all things come to an end and my parents lost the bar in 1984. Soon after, they lost the house. And once they lost the house, everything went downhill and my family spent my high school years moving from rental to rental.

My dreams of attending college at Claremont McKenna vanished in a haze after I dozed and drank my way through my senior year and dropped out of high school five credits short of a diploma.

My mom never forgave my father for buying the bar but I am glad he did. It showed me as a young child that fulfilling your dream was possible. It taught me that even though it might not turn out well as you hoped, at least you tried. It's why I took my GED and how I imagined myself graduating from law school even when I was in junior college waitressing to pay my way through. And, it's also probably why I began dreaming my book into being.

 Dad died eight years ago and my mom, who has mellowed through the years, cannot go one day without saying his name. I am sitting with her in her little one room subsidized apartment in Fontana and she reminisces while looking at one of the many pictures of my dad on her walls.

"Your dad didn't do so bad that first year," Mom told me recently. "The problem was that the rednecks and the Mexicans didn't like each other and we catered more to the rednecks. We should have catered to the Mexicans more but then we would have been a Mexican bar and your dad didn't want that. He was a Montana cowboy and he wanted a honky tonk. He loved that damn bar. It put us in the poorhouse and we lost everything. But he never regretted it. He was a dreamer."

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The writer's life: a portrait of a not so young writer at her first AWP conference

I woke up yesterday exhausted. Not merely tired. Beat. Run down. Haggard. My feet hurt. My back hurt. This is what forty-something looks like.

Work has been crazy, pun intended. As a deputy public defender, I represent incompetent clients at Patton State Hospital as well as probationers/mental health clientele and it was a rough week with one fire drill after another. And, I had to interview for a promotion.

As a result, I missed the first three days of the annual AWP writing conference, a conference that was in LA, a mere hour away. I knew I should have planned it better and took the days off. Of course, my promotion interview would land on the first day of AWP. And a mandatory immigration training on the second day. Doesn't life always happen that way when you are making plans (paraphrasing John Lennon here)?

That said, I had promised myself I would attend on a Saturday day pass. Plus, I had agreed to man the book fair table for VONA.  So, when I woke up at 6 am I groaned. The weight of my pledges to myself and others heavy on my shoulders. But, I took a deep breath and got up, walked the dogs, drank my coffee and got dressed (which consisted of me tying my hair back and putting on some leggings and a punk rock tee with boots) and got on the road. Sometimes you just have to get the fuck up.

I arrived to the LA Convention Center a little early but not too early. My first seminar was originally supposed to be writing the spiritual memoir but I was too lazy to walk over to the Marriott blocks away so I chose what turned out to be the perfect panel, on sex, drugs, violence and rock and roll in YA. It was kismet. I sat through the panel aghast. It was as if God had made a panel built for me. After all, I am a punk rock girl from the IE who writes in child voice and whose family cursed a lot (I mean a lot, the F bomb was a very common occurrence, no exaggeration needed) and who is trying to incorporate music and YA books into her memoir. I even took a deep breath and raised my hand to ask a question. I felt proud of myself afterwards. Maybe I did belong.

The next panel was a reading by queer and straight mujers and again, it was an amazing experience. My friend Liz was reading and she brought down the house along with the four other Latinas. One woman's story was even about trying to get pregnant as a Queer woman and my reaction to her piece was immediate and visceral due to my own fertility struggles. I talked to her after the reading and it was amazing to feel that immediate connection with another writer. To feel the bridges form.

The rest of the day flew by. I ran around grabbing as many of the for sale books as I could, some were even free. I talked to old friends, made small talk with editors of literary journals, sipped on a beer, sipped on a coffee, ate a piece of pizza in a "We Need Diverse Books" panel listening to a VONA faculty member stress the need for change in the world of all white publishing houses. I manned the VONA table at the end of the day and made a new friend, a fellow Inland Empire girl who has read my work and who loves punk rock just like me.

I found myself, saw myself, motivated myself and began believing in myself as a writer at AWP. It was as if I was being reborn. James Joyce wrote Ulysses about the day in the life of one man and for me, my first AWP conference has that same significance.  It means I am here. For good.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In the weeds

Up. Five a.m. My first thought is that it is cold. Last night, the temperature drooped to a chilly forty degrees. The lack of warmth outside matches my insides.

Yesterday was a very hard day.  The modifier very doesn't even cut it. Most people have no idea what my job as a deputy public defender is like, but yesterday was toxic. The kind of day that made me wonder how or why I do the job I do. Am I a masochist immersed in other's misery? What hole is this filling in me? Does the chaos I have to deal with on a daily basis mirror something that might be familiar to me from childhood?

Or maybe I am overthinking it. Maybe a shit day is just that. They say it's how you react that matters. And I reacted badly. Screamed at husband over lunch about something petty. The negative energy had to go somewhere.

When I used to waitress, I had many bad days. I waitressed for almost ten years. I remember the days in the weeds where you were the only server on shift and the hostess sat eight tables at once. I would run around trying to keep up. I would not let the tables drown me. Rush, rush and more rush. It was fun in a weird, miserable way. Fellow waitresses would run in, often late for their shift. How can I help, they would ask? "Can you get that table drinks and get those people's orders," I would ask in a brusque tone. My fellow waitresses never took offense. They knew my "I am busy" voice. "Thank you," I would later say with a smile after I was caught up.

In the legal world, however, everything moves at a different pace and the decorum is much different. People often take my brusqueness for rudeness. They don't understand that I only know one speed. That I am often impatient, but that I am just trying to not let it all bring me down. And down.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hourglass musings

Another gambling den blog post. Don't say it. You know you're thinking it. Doesn't she ever stay home?

I'm in Laughlin for my husband's birthday and I can't sleep despite the fact that we stayed out way too late.  I woke up with thoughts on my mind and it is better to write them down in case I forget.

Life is odd. We have all these experiences and moments, yet when do we really live? Is it only on weekends? Is it only in the evening after work? I've come to truly enjoy the work I do, but most days, the day rushes by like a film on fast forward. And, when I get home from work, it still flies by. I walk in the door, kiss Adrian and the dogs and then eat and watch some television or read. I'm in bed by nine most nights, then wake up at six to do it all again.

My mornings are even more hectic. I get up, let the dogs out, feed the dogs, feed and coffee myself and make my lunch and then walk the dogs before I get on the road. The entire walk I am begging them to poop. Out loud. It's humiliating to admit, but I yammer at them in my doggie talk, "It's time to poop Frodo, come on Chewie, give us one. Good boys." On the days when they refuse, I walk them twice as long imploring them, "C'mon guys, mommy is gonna be late, please poop." My dogs' bowel movements are a big part of my morning obviously and while people are very understanding about a sick kid, try explaining to a judge in a department that you're late because your stubborn Shih Tzu wouldn't take a shit.

I guess my point is that rarely do I bathe in the joy of the sun on my face and their wagging tails. My dogs love that walk every morning, but I can't say I enjoy it like I should. Even now, I am writing but am I appreciating the process? When I get up, will I enjoy going down to the Starbucks to get coffee, past the noisy jangling slot machines? Or will I lumber down grumbling to myself about my headache?

I make a pledge to bask in the joy of the moment, the now, the present. It is all I have. I want to stop the sands of time from slipping through my fingers, at least for a day.



Friday, February 26, 2016

Reality check

I thought I was over it. And then I started watching Big Bang Theory, one of my favorite shows. And I cursed aloud. Fuck. Bernadette is pregnant. I turned the television off and sat staring at the remote. Will I ever be over this? I'm not sure. Right now my heart feels cut in two, each half feels fragile, as if one side is me and the other my lost dream.

Babies are everywhere. A close friend of mine is pregnant and I'm overjoyed for her. I am. I just feel sad for myself. I smile and act like everything is OK but it's not.

Like goes on but it kind of doesn't. Maybe life when you cannot create life is meaningless in a way. Yes, I know what I'm saying is ridiculous. I have so much. A great husband, two beautiful dogs, a lovely house and best friends and my mom and sisters, I know this. Yet, I wanna cry and cry and never stop.

And I'm pissed. Because I love Big Bang Theory. I'm invested in the characters. But, to have to watch a fictional version of what I want and cannot have is too much to handle.

Instead, I take the remote and click, switching to a recently recorded episode from this season of Survivor. Because at this point, it feels like where I am, on this island of me, surviving.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ordinary World

I just read a woman's blog about wanting to have an ordinary and mediocre life. And it made me itch inside. Because I don't know many things, but I know me and I can't be satisfied with that.

The mundane vexes me. Apathy is one of the worse vices. Being normal is not something I have ever wanted. I would rather be the crazy lady at the park mumbling to herself about her yet unwritten novel than the woman lunching.

As a young girl I daydreamed and read myself into characters. I always felt as if something special was on the horizon, I just needed to climb and overcome that crazy mountain of my family. But, being special requires a deep desire, motivation and luck.

Some may say I have beaten the odds by where I am and where I have been. A high school dropout, despite being an A student for most of my high school career, I waitressed and studied my way back into academic excellence. It was my years at Mt SAC junior college, working two jobs at times and living in a trailer park for a while in Pomona, that proved my fortitude and ambition. I wanted out. I wanted more. I yearned for it and needed it. I willed it into being.

By the time I transferred to UCR, it was almost a certainty that things would change. People complained about the small room with the common kitchen but I loved it. I had wanted the college experience for so long. A too short two years and graduation with a Bachelor's in English Literature. I had taken as many courses as I could in those two years. Then USC Law. Sure law school was hard, mostly because I was broke, but I had known harder times.

Times like when it rains and the roof caves in on your trailer and you have nowhere to go. Or losing your waitressing job and only having your bagel making job that pays minimum wage.  And your car engine blowing up. And someone stealing the money you had saved to fix the car engine. Having no home, no good job and no ride to school which forces you to move back home, into yet another trailer (your parent's trailer down the street from your busted trailer) feeling like an utter failure.

Your dad cooks you fried bologna and eggs every morning and drives you to school or your sister picks you up for class. And you muddle through. But just barely. And the light times are when you are at school. When you are there in class at 8 pm studying Shakespeare trying to stay awake because you are so fucking tired from working all day, yet you relish it. You love the books so much it hurts, and the literary explications move you. Or working late in the news office pasting headlines onto the wax paper, that is joy. So law school was not so bad.

 Next, onto the largest most prestigious law firm in Texas. All the way to god damn Texas. By myself. Eager for it. All alone. I felt as if I was the American dream. I had made it. That is when my story careens off into nowhere. All that hard work and sacrifice, student loans, no partying while in law school and then I made it, and hit a brick wall. Bam!

I quickly found that I hated the corporate litigation world. Loathed might be a better word. It was dreary, soul sapping, superficial and boring. To me, to try and succeed at that life, to be a law firm partner, once I knew what it entailed, surely that life would be ordinary and sad.

I started writing poems in my high rise and the words poured out of me. I couldn't stop them. I had turned on a tap that had been off for too long and then I knew. But not really. I stayed at that soul sucker of a job for almost three years. Went through a deep depression and when I awoke, I took the California Bar and thankfully passed. Yet, I still took another soul sucking job at a big firm. The change of locale helped. Adrian and I found a great deal on an apartment in San Francisco and he went to dental school and I worked twelve hour days and weekends.

When my dad died something broke in me and I moved back home to the Inland Empire. When Adrian graduated, we got married and I found a job I could love at the Public Defender's Office representing the poor. I should have known all along that I belonged there, but sometimes we can't see our own stories clearly until they've unfolded.

And I wrote. And wrote. Pen to paper, fingers to keys. I found and created writing communities. For me, it is everything. Writing transcends. It transports me. It is my very own portal into other worlds. Writing is the antithesis of ordinary and it is where I want to be.

So fuck the ordinary world my friends. Live a strange and unique existence. I know I will.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

You

I can picture your face
a small baby face
that never really existed
I didn't tell anyone but
I knew you weren't real
The test had to be wrong
God doesn't answer prayers

When they told me
you were just a figment
of dreamland I sighed
I already knew it wasn't to be
When the pains began
I welcomed them
to get you out of me

You looked like a bird
A dead crow in red water
I flushed for forty years
You swirled like Icarus
dropping from the sky
with a thud
The noise was familiar

As if I had lived this before



Monday, January 11, 2016

Starman-my tribute to Bowie

Bowie has always been there for me.  Since before I was born. One of my favorite songs, "Space Oddity" was released in 1969. I came into this world two years later. By the time I was in elementary school, Bowie had morphed again.  He was Ziggy Stardust.  All theatrics. A precursor to punk.  Always a visionary, Bowie's music transcended genres.  He could do punk, pop, blues, jazz, New Wave, and alternative, all without missing a beat.  He influenced all of my favorite artists, Morrissey, Joy Division, Siouxsie, The Cure, the list goes on and on. In a way, he was perhaps my favorite artist.

I was a little girl when Elvis died. My mom cried by the swimming pool when Casey Kasem announced it. She was devastated.  Years later, I know exactly how she felt that day. My heart feels as if it has been ripped apart by tweezers and even though I didn't know him personally, I feel as if I have suffered a great loss.

In the last year, I have become obsessed with Bowie again.  I started listening to all of his work over and over and for Christmas, my husband got me a four CD set that I was making my way through. I say making my way through because I couldn't get past CD 2, the songs were that good.  From Space Oddity to Rebel Rebel to Suffragette City to Heroes to Rock and Roll Suicide to Ziggy Stardust to Young Americans to songs I don't remember having heard like Bowie's cover of Lou Reed's White Light/White Heat (you must listen to his version, you will be amazed and transported).

Last night about eleven, I heard Bowie had died and I did what only a true fan would do. I cried. Like a baby. I tried to sleep but couldn't and as I listened to his music and read the posts about him on Facebook, I cried some more. This morning, I woke up and put on my Bowie tee and despite the flu I can feel still inside of me, another reminder of mortality as if I need one, I muddled through and lit a candle and played his songs over and over. It was the only thing that helped.

And then I watched the music video for his magnum opus song Lazarus, from his album Blackstar (just released three days ago on his birthday on January 8th).  It starts out with the words, " Look up here, I'm in Heaven." For most of the song he is in a hospital bed, blindfolded, two holes for eyes.  But, toward the end, he rises up as if rejuvenated and starts dancing, writing, and creating. After the video/song was over, I looked up as if into the stars and could feel my the tears from the power of my Starman's message.

Life is short. Fleeting. We only have this now. And I waved a figurative goodbye. To Bowie. To my father.  To all who were here and now are gone. And I vowed to create and create until I can't no more.  That is surely the best tribute, maybe the only tribute, I can offer.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

The last leg of the famous inland empire playgirl

I'm in Vegas to see Morrissey. This is my last day and night here and Morrissey is playing at the Hard Rock tonight. The last five days have been a challenge. I was fighting a cold and missing my dogs who help keep me sane. I have had a bad case of separation anxiety. My oft posed question to my husband was, "Would it be too weird if I called the doggie hotel to check on Frodo and Chewbaca again?" His response was a head nod many times over and despite his opinion, I texted the hotel more than once. In response, the sweet dogsitter (who obviously owns a dog hotel and thus must be used to the anxious fur parent) sent me pictures of my fur babies that only made my yearning worse.

As a result of my melancholy, I was back in our hotel room by nine p.m. all nights except one. On New Year's Eve, I rallied to stay out until almost two in the morning. It was a struggle to pull it together to party that night and I kept thinking to myself, what is wrong with me? Where is the party girl? Maybe she never existed at all. Vegas is supposed to make you feel young again, but I just feel old.

Clearly, I am slowing down. My party days are likely behind me (I say likely because never say never dear reader, this old grey mare may rally again). I think that is a good thing. I'm tired.

The last days here in Vegas have given me an epiphany. That epiphany being that I just want to be home. Home with my husband (who is here with me but we are discombobulated in Vegas with all the smoke, gambling and alcohol) and our two shih tzus doing what we do on a daily basis.

The lines from an old poem of mine come to mind, "It's the ordinary rote routine of life I crave. What some call humdrum, I name bliss."