Wednesday, May 30, 2012

road joy

I am writing this from a hotel room in Flagstaff. In a few minutes I'll drive the rest of way to Santa Fe. I admit, I was a little worried about being on the road alone for so many hours yesterday. As much as I drive, long solo stretches are rare. Yesterday morning my dad told me, very seriously, "Do not pick up hitchhikers or men outside of prisons."  HA!

The road from San Diego to Phoenix is flat, boring lame. But the drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff! Oh my heart was glad, I was glad, singing, happy. It was ridiculously beautiful. I had  my music on full blast, singing at the top of my lugs and I was happy. I felt myself for the first time in a long time. My adventurous self, my wild self, free, nothing but possibility in front of me.

I have no idea what I'll do in Santa Fe. I'm not worried. I'm sure I'll be fine. I am SO looking forward to getting back on the road. The road loves me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


It was beautiful.


Getting ready with my sisters and various other bridesmaids and family members. It occurred to me as we dressed and primped and rank champagne that we were were engaging in an ancient ritual. The bride was surrounded by women as we helped her prepare for her new life. We fed her, drank champagne, sang, told her she was the most beautiful woman in the world. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

The ceremony. It was short and completely personal. It was funny, emotional and honest, just like my sister and Matt. We cracked up, cried and were overjoyed. They wrote their own vows, which were sweet without being cheesy. I had a hard time keeping my eyes dry, but then again, I was on the vicodin cough syrup.

The photo booth. We rented a photo booth so the guests could take pictures and have a personal memento to take home. It was riotous. People couldn't get enough. We had to close the photo booth just to get people inside to eat dinner. Pictures got crazier later in the night as the alcohol flowed more freely.

Family.  Fuck, I love my family. I love the extended bunch, the non-blood, the cousins and 8th cousins, the great-aunts, uncles, every single person. I am beyond blessed to come from such a crazy clan.

My dad's speech. He is hilarious. His first words were "One down, two to go." It was emotional but mostly funny. He embarrassed the crap out of my sister.

My speech. I welcomed Matt to the family and told him now that he is in, the only way out is "blood out."

So much more but I have to get on the road. I'm driving to New Mexico today. Road trip, alone. I am thrilled. I look forward to driving in the desert at night, this is my night driving desert music:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

this beautiful morning

I'm sitting in a hotel room in San Juan Capistrano with my sisters. Today is the day my sister Deanna gets married. Strange, wonderful. I can't believe today is the day, we've been waiting for it for months, for our entire lives. She is the first sister to get married. I'm living in a hyper-reality today, everything is super-defined, real.  Yesterday we were lazy, taking care of small wedding details. I had to go to the doctor as I still have a bad cough. He prescribed me a Vicodin cough syrup so I'm a little high, but at least I'm not coughing or in pain.  Last night we hung out, drinking margaritas, laughing and enjoying the calm before the storm.

I'm excited. I'm happy for my sister. We're relaxing, listening to Tupac, drinking coconut water. The hairstylist just arrived. The wedding isn't until 6 but we'll spend the entire day gutting ready, slowly, happily. I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful family. I love my sisters so much, and my parents, and everyone in this new and expanding family. I dreamt about the wedding all night.  I'm so so so happy. Today is one of the best days ever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

extracting the story

I've been reading a ton of Fantasy and Paranormal Young Adult fiction; I actually always read YA but in my reading the last year or so I've been paying attention to the arc, narrative styles, themes, etc because of the book I'm writing. My protagonist is on the Hero's Journey, with appropriate deviations from the traditional path. I am struggling a little. But I didn't expect it to be easy. I've been reading books that are parts of trilogies, as in the fantasy camp of my mind, I'm writing a trilogy. I've noticed that in a lot of the trilogies I'm reading, the second book falls a little flat, most of the interesting character development has already occurred and the plot focus on situations leading toward whatever is the big reveal in the third book. I have my books mapped out. I have a plan. I think my character will end up in a very interesting place right before the first book ends so I can have that momentum to drive the second book. I'll figure it out.

Wedding wedding wedding. I'm very excited for my sister's wedding and I get more excited each day. I'm trying not to think about all the things I need to do before then and all the work I have to get done before I leave.

I head out to New Mexico next week for a couple of weeks. I know I have some work with an interior designer but she isn't in the country yet so I have a couple of days to hang out in New Mexico on my own. I'll probably do some solo camping, as much as the idea drives my parents crazy. But I love sleeping outdoors, I love sitting in front of a fire. Then a week at Las Dos Brujas Writing Workshop. Pretty excited to see a couple of good friends. My friend V and I only ever see each other every couple of years but when we get together we act like siblings. I'm excited to work with Chris Abani, I've known him for years, he was part of the VONA faculty so I hung out with him but I've never had the chance to work with him.

Coming home will be interesting. I've had the wedding and the workshop to look forward to. I don't have much to look forward to this summer. Work and distractions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the body, sick

I'm finally getting over this crappy, crappy cold. I tried to be a noble sick person, keeping to myself, making myself soup and honeyed tea, sleeping wrapped in a heavy blanket, the humidifier turning my room into a sauna. I try to allow, let the virus work itself out, let my immune system bolster itself. But then I lose my shit and turn weepy. I hate being sick. I hate being sick alone.

When I was a kid, illness meant lots of love, homemade soup lovingly fed to me by my mom or one of my grandmothers or aunts. Illness meant foot rubs, cool towels on my head, the scent of Vicks VapoRub permeating my footie pajamas. My grandfather would go rent a bunch of old Disney movies and we'd watch them together, I LOVED The Gnome Mobile.

The first time I was sick alone I was living in Mexico. I caught a cold and was miserable. I remember walking down the the local mercado and finding a stand that sold homemade chicken soup. I bought a styrofoam container and sat at a plastic table, eating it alone. There was a family of women at a table near me and they noticed I was sick. They were mothers and concerned I was sick  and alone. They gave me advice about what kind of medicinal tea to buy, what cough syrup, how to wrap myself up and sweat it out. I thanked them and went home to my tiny apartment alone and wrapped myself up and cried. I was lonelier than I had never been. I was living alone in the middle of Mexico, I had no close friends or family to call upon and I had to take care of myself. I did it but I was miserable. I wanted my mom.

Getting sick as an adult I know what to do, I know what I need, I know how to take care of myself. A lot of times when I get sick my mom or one of my sisters will stop by with soup, or whatever I need and sit with me, give me some of the comfort that comes from feeling cared for by someone you love, feeling loved. This last weekend no one came. My sister's wedding is in a few days and no one wanted to risk catching what I have. I was miserable. But I survived, heating pad and Netflix.

I am better now. I went to the doctor and he gave me a couple of shots. He promised I'll be better by the wedding. I hope my nose isn't chapped by then.

Writing the speech I'm giving at my sister's wedding. I'm excited. I don't have a date for the wedding. I have two male best friends but couldn't ask one and not the other so I invited neither. I thought for a long time if there was anyone else I could take, but no. I'm sitting at a table with people I love and look forward to dancing, rejoicing, loving.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

putting in, taking out

Woke up with a burning and sore throat, dry nasal passages. Dosing myself heavily with honey and tea, salt water gargles, homeopathic remedies. I haven't been sick in a very ling time. I had been thinking about illness and the body. During my last relationship I was sick all of the time. I was dealing with a shit-load of negativity, angst and tension; my immune system faltered and viruses got their claws in. Since the end of that chaos last summer I've been taking very good care of myself, working out a lot, eating live food, meditating and my immune system bolstered up. The last week or so I haven't made it to the gym because of the bursitis and I have been admittedly eating crap. And now a cold. I have to get better, my sister's wedding is a week from today and I don't want sick face, swollen and chapped nostrils for the photographs.

This latest short story is a lot to write. Not so much in terms of how long it will be but how much of myself I'm putting into it.  The protagonist has aspects of myself that I don't really like, parts of my psyche that hinder me. But writing it down is interesting.

There is an eclipse tomorrow. If I'm feeling up to it I want to drive out somewhere East to watch. I'm fascinated by the orbits and trajectories of heavenly bodies. The character in my novel are somewhat ruled by the stars and planets, the moon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

no shoulder is colder

I am a pretty damn patient person. Patient to a fault but once the line is crossed, watch out. I have a someone I call my inner chola; you don't want to meet her. She scares people. As B has said to me, "When you're angry, no shoulder is colder than your cold shoulder."

Last night inner chola came out with a fury and I was somewhat remorseful. But then I had a conversation that made me feel better.

The creative writing class I'm teaching is getting bigger every week. The teens seem to really love it. But, get a room full of teenagers together and there is bound to be drama and/or tension. Last night things came to a head. I had a female student who was reading aloud a very personal piece about her mother abandoning her. Another student snickered in the middle of the piece. The student who was reading stopped and told her to shut the fuck up, that she was disrespecting her. The sister of the snickering student lost her shit and jumped up and started shouting at the girl whose piece had been interrupted. They screamed at each other for a few minutes then the girl to my right leapt up and said she was going to beat the crap out of the reader, she lunged over the table.

Oh hell no. Not on my watch.

I bellowed. And I can bellow. I don't exactly remember what I said but I know I used the language of drunken sailors on leave. I told them in no uncertain terms that I was sick of their bullshit. I told them I was sick of watching young women compete against each other, that when women compete against each other it blinds them to the shit going on around them that is truly important and allows them to be taken advantage of by men and society. I told them they were disrespecting me and every other student in the classroom and if they continued I would walk out and never come back.  I told them they had enough against them in the world and our classroom was a place of unity and family.

My yelling shut them up. By the time I finished they were both crying. A couple of my other students were crying too, I scared them. I didn't feel bad about yelling at the fighting girls but I felt horrible about letting the other students see me lose my shit. I apologized by the tension was thick. After class I apologized to the program director and called my executive director at the non-profit and apologized to him, explaining what had happened.

I was pacing in my bones after. I needed solitude and a drink. I went to the local restaurant I love to hang out at, ordered a glass of wine and was happy to see someone I knew at the bar, a Chicano muralist I've known for years. He teaches art and is a cool, cool man. He asked what was bugging me and I told him my story, feeling shameful. He laughed. And laughed then patted me on the back, telling me I did exactly what I needed. That the things I said would stick with them, maybe not immediately but down the line they would make sense to the kids.

Anyway. I feel okay about it this morning. Not great but okay.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I've been in contact with a good friend from San Diego who is going through the worst time in her life. She is in Florida, taking care of her mother as she transitions out of living. I can't imagine. My heart breaks and shudders for my sweet friend, knowing how close she is to her mother. I keep sending her messages, leaving voicemail. I give her permission to be pissed off, to be sad, since all of her friends keep telling her to to be brave. Sure, bravery has its place but anger and grief are very natural parts of our human existence. I say go with the scary emotions, the ones with teeth. Be brave later. My friend has grace, has faith, a community of people who love and support her. But still, grief is a river to be navigated alone.

Working on this latest short story is surprisingly emotional. I haven't broken down crying while writing a short story in a long time. There were parts of writing my novel that were very intense, I sobbed my eyes out after writing the scene where my protagonist is born. (Probably my favorite scene in the whole book, tears come to my eyes just thinking about it.) But this short story is a very different vein of writing than the novel. It is not exactly in a fantasy world but in a mythological world of story. I wonder if that makes sense to anyone but me. I know setting and place are important in storytelling but in this series of stories I'm trying to get the emotional home, the different places women love from and are loved; location is irrelevant. For guidance, I look to some of my favorite Latin American writers who create worlds that are gentle, that don't force the hands of those who live there. The world of story, of mythology isn't a physical place that can be scribbled into being. Or I'm a romantic, no, I am definitely a romantic.

Part of the process I'm learning is to let go of what I think I want to say, the meaning I wanted to attach to my stories. That will take care of itself. I'm a fan of the subconscious; subtext happens. I've also made the choice to just fucking write the shit, even if it mirrors back aspects of myself that are vulnerable or terrifying to consider. Just tell the damn story. Letting go of what I want isn't particularly easy, of course I want the story to go a certain way. But as in life, that isn't realistic. The story has its own heart to master.

Monday, May 14, 2012

serenades and time machines

I've been listening to Mexican music all day. These songs are in my blood and bones, they inhabit my language and emotions as my father has been singing them my entire life. My preferences change over the years and my favorites rotate. Yesterday I sat on the porch at my sister's house with my grandmother and dad and my dad and I sang "No Volvere." I won't return. We were clouds the wind blew apart, we were rocks crashing into each other, drops of water the sun dried out, inebriation that ever ended. The lyrics sound much better in Spanish. I'm leaving on the train of absence.

I'm listening to Mexican music to try to invigorate my brain as I work on a short story that takes place in Mexico. It is part of a series of stories I've been working on that are inspired by the songs my dad has been singing my entire life, and I borrow from the crazy mythology of my family, the paternal side.

There was, and is still, a tradition in Mexico of the serenata, the serenade. A man who was courting a woman would bring a guitar or friends with guitars to sing under the woman's window as a declaration of love. I love this idea and have always had a fantasy of it happening to me, thought I doubt it will ever happen. In the early 1970s my dad serenaded my mom under her window in Brooklyn. The neighbor's didn't appreciate it and yelled at him to shut the fuck up and the like. But he was in love and super-romantic.

Saturday morning I woke up with a terrible ache in my elbow that become worse as the day progressed. I woke up yesterday morning with a huge bump on my elbow. I have bursitis, probably from working out too hard. Ugly and painful. The doctor told me I can't work out my arm for at least two weeks. Of course. Less than two weeks until my sister's wedding and I can't work out my arms. I know there are worse things but damn, my arms were starting to look really good.

Yesterday for Mother's Day we watched old home movies with my mom, aunt and grandmother. So, so strange to see myself. I get so sad for my younger self, she was such a nerd. I watch the movies knowing what she's going through at school and in her many lonely moments. In the videos I always have a book in hand. I'm skinny skinny skinny with huge glasses and feet too big for my body. In the videos we watched I was about to enter junior high school. I cried when I came home yesterday for the kid I was. I was so strange and lonely, incredibly socially awkward. I wanted so badly to connect to others but didn't know how. Kids weren't particularly mean to me but they didn't know what to do with me, how to interact. When I look at the novel I'm working on I realize I'm writing it for that girl, the weird kid, the nerd; to make her less lonely, to plant seeds that one day she'll grow up and feel loved.

Friday, May 11, 2012

linear time

I'm waiting for summer 
to subsist or submit, resisting 
the change of the season's 

from 100 Words While I Wait 
Lorna Dee Cervantes

Last night I went to see an old friend do a presentation on his life's work. Mind. Blowing. I met him 11 year ago while living in Playa del Carmen. He is brilliant, always has been and I am in awe at how he followed his passion, to very successful fruition. Our friendship was a furious mix of laughter and arguing, swimming in the ocean, driving sandy roads. I can't believe 11 years has passed since we met, since those days and nights of salt, ocean. I remember one night a hurricane was approaching and the town was locking down. I convinced my friend we should walk on the beach to feel the storm on our skin. The winds were crazy; I think I was a little crazy. I climbed to the top of a bamboo lifeguard tower and leaned into the wind, I was wearing a long red skirt and it was whipping everywhere, painfully. I laughed and laughed while my friend looked up at me and laughed too. He shouted to me that I was crazy. That summer I sang Avientame by Cafe Tacuba every day.

Seeing my friend last night I was happy for my younger self, her love of wildness. I was drunk on life back then. Every day I woke up and went into the ocean and swam out, probably a kilometer, to the reef where I would let the currents carry me around while I floated, face down with a mask on, marveling at the world below. I'd see barracuda with their fucked up teeth; fish more colorful than American candy; sea turtles. The world felt enormous and I felt that I was an essential part of it, that my wonder would propel me.

I love that Lizz. I look at my life since then and it has been a gradual closing, battening down. I would never walk out into a hurricane these days to see what the storm feels like, I've known the storm and it was enough. I know there is still a part of me that welcomes risk because I know when it works out the reward is sweeter than anything any tongue could taste. 

After the presentation last night I had dinner with a college professor I knew back then. She inspired me more than she knows. She lived life freely, traveling and exploring. I would listen to her stories and I collected them in my head. Last night she was amazed when I recalled stories she told me over ten years ago.  She and I have a great connection and with her I can talk about things I'm not comfortable talking about with anyone else. She and I are of the same emotional tribe.

I've battled insomnia again this week. I'm tired at night but sleeping well is out of my grasp. I get into bed and wait and wait. When I do fall asleep I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I've slept long enough. I'm awake long enough for moments of existential panic, the awareness of my own mortality sharp, wondering what I'm doing with my life, meaning and other daggers of crisis. It will pass. 

Time is strange. Aging is strange. But interesting. I don't mind it so much, in daylight hours, with a cup of strong coffee in hand. I have friends who never got to age, I think of them often.

Last night I had drinks with my neighbor. We were talking about romantic love, relationships. We're both single and kind of looking (not at each other). He told me that I should tone myself down a bit, that I may come off as intimidating because I am strong in personality and spirit. I've wondered that about myself, if I'm too alpha for my own good. I don't think so. I am strong, no doubt, but I am also incredibly generous with my heart, to a fault. I don't mind being single, I enjoy my time and solitude. But cooking for one sucks. And there is no one to call when I have insomnia. But no, I'm not going to tone it down. That won't work for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

jumping off

I spent a long weekend in the Bay Area, visiting friends and going to my sister's bachelorette party. It was good, but shadowed by something I witnessed.

Friday morning I woke up early. My cousin happened to be in San Francisco too so we met up for breakfast. The morning was beautiful, sunny. We decided to take a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. We were happy, watching dolphins, enjoying the wind. Then we saw a man kill himself by jumping off the bridge. I was appalled, shocked and cried for the stranger. It was surreal, unreal and I think I went into a kind of shock. Seeing his body floating in the water while dolphins and seals surfaced near him is an image I'll never get out of my head, as long as I live. I stood, looking over the side of the bridge while the Coast guard boats raced to pul his body out of the water. The man was wearing a black t-shirt, it rode up his back, exposing his skin. I kept wondering what had gone through his head when he put the shirt on. Did he know he would die wearing that shirt? I cried thinking about his family or friends who were unaware he was gone. I cried because life is short and sadness eats away After we left I wanted to go back to my hotel and stay in bed and be sad but I knew I couldn't dwell on it.

I spent the afternoon in Berkeley with my beautiful friend Sharline and her precious baby girl. We spent the whole afternoon together, catching up, laughing, playing with her baby, But the man who jumped was still on my mind, sadly. I kept thinking that he was someone's baby once; someone fed him and picked him up when he cried. I had a wonderful time with my friend, was and am grateful for her friendship and love. I was even more appreciative that day than I think I would have been. 

Friday night I met up with friends who were in town from Mexico, by then I was exhausted and left them to slept poorly; sad for the stranger, sad that life can sucker-punch you in the heart when you least expect it. 

Bachelorette day was a good, solid time. 13 women, wine-tasting. getting drunk, eating good food. Making my sister play dumb games that involved 13 pair of panties and a phallus veil. I love my sister and she has wonderful, wonderful friends. I wish I had more female friends in town. I do have female friends but they're all married, or have kids, or both. I miss quality female time. We ate and drank and danced. I danced so much I wore the skin off of a couple of toes and haven't been able to wear real shoes since the weekend. 

It was good to see my sister so happy. I am really, really happy for her. Marriage is something she has always wanted and the man she's going to spend the rest of her is a good man who treats her well and makes her happy. I look forward to the wedding in a couple of weeks.

Last month a friend got me a copy of the new Lorna Dee Cervantes poetry collection "Ciento" and he gave it to me Sunday right before I left town. Holy crap. I love Lorna Dee. I love her writing. I've been savoring the book, dipping into it slowly. I decided to start a new habit. When I fall in love with the poem I writ the name of the poem down and the date I fall in love with it in the back of the book so I can have an emotional timeline of my response. I've read so much poetry over the years and different poems mean different things to me depending on where I am in my life. I'm looking forward to looking back.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

this whole adult thing

This whole adult thing is overrated. My life is crazy busy and I live a relatively simple life, no partner, no kids, to debt. I don't know how anyone with real responsibilities handles the insanity. I suppose I'm not busy to a point where it bothers me but some down time would be nice. Rant over.

I spent the entire day yesterday in LA with my sister, shopping for her wedding We shopped for 8 hours. I know that is my record, usually I'm a monster when it comes to shopping. I put up with it like a champ because my sister is awesome and I've witnessed a couple of pre-wedding meltdowns and have had to calm her down. I love both my sisters but D and I have always been especially close since we are only a few years apart. I'm excited for her wedding and love how happy she is. I also know that when she stresses out I'm one of the only people on the planet who can keep her calm. But our shopping day was nice. We laughed a lot, talked a lot, spent a stupid amount of money. On the way home in traffic we went over seating arrangements for the tables and I made sure I'll be sitting at the "fun" table.

Today I head up for San Francisco for her bachelorette weekend. Wine tasting in Napa with 11 other women. Girl time. Girl talk. I really like my sister's friends so I'm sure we'll have a blast. I'm going to spend my day tomorrow with one of my favorite people on the planet, Sharline and can't wait. I have great friends but they're all so spread out. Adulthood, bah.

I feel non-stop and my next six weeks aren't any better. I haven't really had any time to write and I have to ready my piece for the writing workshop I'm heading up to in a month. I am over-the-moon excited for it.