Archive for Friends

Children and community

I love children.  I love babies.  I love youth.

I’ve always been observant of the cultural differences in the value given to children and their place in community.

Where I come from children are part of the community and we are all responsible for loving them, protecting them, caring for them, educating them.  Where I come from (and I’m talking culture, not just geography) it’s okay to talk to a kid you don’t know or make funny faces at the baby in front of you at the checkout line.  You aren’t seen as a threat or a weirdo; just part of community.  And it’s so different from when I experience in Anglo culture.  I hate to resort to a problematic cliche like “it takes a village to raise a child,” but, well, it fits.  It’s okay to be affectionate with kids where I’m from: hugs and kisses are generously offered.  Kids are welcome at parties, no weird separation of adults and kids, no weird tiptoeing and hiding the beers, no perception of children as a burden.  Birthday parties for kids include the adults and are often loud in the best ways with music, drinking, dancing, dominoes, laughter.  And when the kids konk out the adults keep partying.  It’s normal to see a puppy pile of little ones on a designated bed or couch and anyone and everyone checks on them while festivities continue.  The idea of a party for children where adults aren’t welcome, or where they aren’t having a good time but are just hovering over the kids awkwardly is foreign.   Weddings, graduation parties, family bbqs, funerals, life events are all attended by community and community includes kids.  Kids are incorporated into activities and they are just another blessed fact of life.

Once a child enters into the mix the community shifts to welcome them, there are more eyes to watch them, more hands to guide them, more hearts to love them and keep them safe.  If a child is hurt, anyone of us will scoop him up.  If she is unsafe, any one of us will rush to rescue.  If he is bubbling with joy, every heart will smile.  As a member of the community, we all participate in their life.

Interactions with children has always been an area of culture shock for me, especially the walls put up around them that seem to say it’s not okay to love them if they aren’t yours.

I got to do some kitchen table organizing with friends recently and it warmed my heart to be there with three amazing, powerful, fierce women and two of their kids.  See, when women of color get together and there’s  kids in the mix there’s a dynamic that is usually different from anglo culture to me.  There’s a sense of community and freedom and an invitation to love.

As we plotted with a toddler and a three year old around, we were conscious of the kids and comfortable.  We were all at liberty to offer guidance, all entitled to a hug and a kiss, or a bop with a spiderman toy.  It gives me joy to work with a baby on my lap playing with my phone and chuckling his wizened toddler laugh.  It gives me joy to see the whirlwind of three year old energy playing with a butterfly net and a spderman figure around us, or belly laughing when Tita Thea ignores the fact that he’s pretending not to hear her goodbyes and scoops him up for a wiggly squishy hug.  All this while strategizing, planning, sharing dreams, anger, frustration, good food.  Kids weren’t a nuisance or a distraction.  They were part of the process.  They were part of the reason for doing the work.

I love the ways in which women of color so often come to community, how brown babies are passed around to be adored, and how we all care for them.  I love the easy ways in which we embrace their energy and the lack of apologies, no need to justify their presence.

I once taught an adult education course in Washington Heights.  The course was all Latinos and it was held on Saturdays for about 5 hours in a church.  The participants were motivated and invested.  When childcare was an issue I’d teach history with a baby on my lap drooling during our heated discussions.  There were older children who would come as well and they were always given a job, whether it be a five year old erasing the board, or a seven year old talking about something they had learned in school.  And in this learning community, everyone was valuable, the baby with his babas as much as the 60 year old woman sitting attentively in the front.

When I taught a Graduate course that was held on Saturdays I also had a child student, his parents were both there to learn English and the son would play in the halls, wander back in, hang out with me while the class worked, listen to their presentations, draw pictures on the board.  It was never a disruption, and we all accepted and welcomed him into our class.  Come to think of it, every class I’ve taught has been visited by little ones, some more than others, but always welcome.

One day soon(ish) I’ll have my own brown babies and I know they will have so many tios and tias to fuss over them; and primas and primos and to play with;  padrinos and madrinas to spoil them.  Comadres and compadres for me to turn to.  I know that my babies will have a place in community, a community to love them, see them, keep them safe because, well, that’s just how we roll.  And in the meantime, I feel fortunate to have beautiful babies who bless me.

And so…

I adore this place.  I can’t say it enough. 

I went to the first camp for my job and it is soooo breathtakingly beautiful.  I rode up with my coworker and  friend and we got in the carpool lane and ended up going the wrong way which provided a gloriously beautiful detour.  Rolling hills, voluptous hills, delicious curvy hills that made me just want to taste earth, to bask in the sun, to feel their contours on my naked body.  Sensual landscapes that make every breath beauty. 

The campsite itself is gorgeous and the sky was so clear and beautiful. 

And the camp was simultaneously exhausting and energizing.  There’s something about watching so many young people venture down the path of erradicating racist oppression, including internalized oppression, and not just watching but facilitating: making facil, making easy, making possible, providing… everything about it just a blessing.  I met some amazing people.  I am constantly struck by sheer awe at how things are working out for me.  I am in love with my life. 

I am singing with the South Coast Chorale and hope to be doin’ a lil somethin’ for the Cabaret show we’ll have on the Queen Mary.  Auditions went well so I hope to hear soon if I have a solo but regardless our ensemble is going to sound amazing.  April 18th, save the date! 

and!  I have a roommate! Honestly sometimes things work in really weird ways.  I answered a craigslist ad that asked where all the queers were in lb.  So I of course was representin’.  Turns out she is way cool, we have sooooo much in common (d/g anyone?) and her roommate happens to be moving out.  Score!  She has a very cool kid and the room is totally cute.  And!  We have a houseboy on board who will be painting said room.  To those of you who enjoyed my previous purple paradise, I must sadly report I will not be going with vibrant and bold this time.  Color suggestions currently being considered.  I will post pics at some point in the near future.  I can walk to work, to buses downtown and trains.  And the rent is super reasonable.  So!  I shall be moving some time in mid March or April.  Yay! 

My birthday is coming up and my plans have changed (I’m happy with that) so I am not sure what I’m going to be doing but I’m sure of one thing: This is going to be an amazing year in my life.  I am loving my thirties.  I am enjoying my new life sooooo much.  I am enjoying my new friends, my new home! 

Ooooh and I submitted an abstract for a panel with a new friend (randomness in action again).  That will be fun if it gets accepted.  Aaaaand I’m submitting some stuff to be published, fiction.  Updates will be provided as soon as info is available.  I’m thrilled with the way everything is turning out so far. 

Cricket

Picture being in a chaos of people, people with lifetimes of memories together, with old fights and recent joys to share. A mess of people, all with different personalities and communication styles and volumes. And you, my friend, are the outsider, the newcomer, the stranger.

Yes, I’m talking about a family reunion. My partner’s family has yearly reunions and they are large, and loud, and frankly they are terrifying. People are teasing and laughing and arguing with the easy comfort of family. People are rehashing old debates and grilling and getting drinks and discussing sleeping arrangements and plans. And, the outsider (me), who is an only child (me), from a small and dysfunctional (me) family, is watching, trying to sulk into a corner, terrified of the noise, and the intimacy and the chaos and the powerlessness of not having my bearings, or my place…
And what could be more comforting than a Cricket.

My first family camp was a truly intimidating experience. One of my happiest memories is sitting on the deck by the hot tub with a drink and taking to Cricket. We talked about nature and about bugs. She showed me her beautiful drawings of things like grasshoppers, ants, butterflies. I loved the comfort and peace of sitting there perusing her drawings and reading her comments in her small, even handwriting. I loved the quietness of sitting with her.

I can’t say I knew Cricket well. We weren’t geographically close enough to the family to go to a lot of things and I’m not a phone person… but I recognized in her a kindred spirit. I was spared the family history of disputes and painful memories. I got to enjoy her childlike enthusiasm and her open acceptance. She made me feel welcome in her life and she made me feel like family.

Cricket passed away in her sleep last week. We were both looking forward to seeing her during the holidays and feeling a bit guilty for being out of touch, not just with her, but with most of the family. I know I am going to miss her. I will miss giving her a big hug and talking about nature. And I will miss the welcome only she could give.

I know she is at peace now. And the world is sadder without her fragile wonder in it. Rest in peace.

God of War

And before I forget, I had a chance yesterday to view the violent and sex laden game that my (30 year old) friend’s mom had refused to buy for him.

I had been told about the “off the hook” graphics, which were “on point.” The game is “tight.”

I was sugared up on low gi, low fat, low cal homemade cookies (which I mixed and he baked in a pot because the oven turned out not to work) and coffee, and video games where all I had to do was crash my car into shit (yeah, now that I can do!) when I was subjected to this god of war stuff.

I feel like my pacifist self should be folding extra cranes just to make amends for the graphic blood bath I witnessed. But here’s why I love my friend (whom I’ll refer to as A, for the sake of convenience of course):

A: Check this out, check this out. (playing)
Me: Wow, yeah you are very strong.
A: oh yeah!
Me: Oh nice blood. Very impressive you big strong man you.
A: I know.
Wait check this shit out, the graphics are sick.
Me: oh yeah. It’s raining in the background. (snoring)
A: Now peep this!
Me: Yeah, you killed him dead.
A: Now watch watch watch this!
Me: Mmmmm. Yeah. Wow.

I didn’t get to see the part that was really “banging” but I feel like I should call his mom and apologize for being an accomplice in his enjoyment of such an inappropriate game.

But I have 980 cranes to go.

My friend the vampire

Back in the mid-nineties I worked at a telemarketing agency while I was going to NYU. I worked late at nights and I remember the account I was calling on was a Chevy Chase credit card. No, really. Needless to say I didn’t get any of the awards for sales although if they had instituted an award for the most people laughing at you before hanging up I may have had a shot.

Telemarketing seems to draw some of the most interesting characters I’ve known. I worked with a number of prostitutes. No, really. They turned tricks or ‘danced’ but they also kept telemarketing as their respectable job, don’t ask me why… I never quite understood.

I worked with the usual cast of frustrated and broke actors who were still looking for the perfect waiter job. Their jolly thespian voices could be heard booming over the headset as they addressed their audience of one with unbridled enthusiasm. Rejection junkies.

There was a smattering of students, mostly in useless areas of knowledge, you know the philosophy major, the art student, the English major… I think the angst held major appeal.

There were a fair number of transgendered people. That was one job where they didn’t have to deal with discrimination or with the mindfuck of reverting to their genetic gender in order to be employable. They were fun– they taught me the tricks to keep from going insane from boredom and we’d pass notes and dirty drawings while on the phone. Some of my tranny friends from this job went on to open their own telemarketing business where I worked for a while. But that’s a whole other story!

By far my favorite character, the one person who made me trudge to work was Lestat. If you are unfamiliar with Anne Rice then the reference was lost on you. Yes, this person’s name was Lestat. This person was a vampire. I am refering to this person in gender neutral terms because I was unable to unequivocally ascertain this person’s sex (trust me I tried). Lestat had nicely sharpened incisors before it was cool. Lestat had porcelain skin and black hair and gorgeous blue eyes. Lestat wore a cape to work. And lots of velvet. And jewlery. And makeup. And Lestat never ate. Lestat self-identified as a vampire.

I think the entire section I sat with had the hots for Lestat. Lestat would sometimes grace my friends and I with his/her presence over break or for the collective smoke break outside, which even those who didn’t smoke joined for the sheer proximity of such a being. Lestat’s smooth indiference only made her/him more attractive to all of us. Lestat’s subtle androgyny only added to the attraction and the curiosity. We had betting pools going on the gender issue.

Then one day Lestat stopped showing up. No one knew what happened to Lestat. Lestat had not crossed the work boundary to hang out, other than a few group outings to goth clubs. We lost our vampire!!! And we never found him/her again. We never settled the bets although debate and speculation continued.

Shortly after that I stopped working there. Call me crazy but it just wasn’t fun to work there without a vampire seated a row over.

Thesis defense

I sat in on my friend Joe's thesis defense and it was quite interesting. I'd heard about what he was doing in informal conversations but it was really interesting to hear him actually present it. 

His Master's Thesis was on Shakespeare's Tetralogy which he examined from a New Historicist perspective.  He focused on the coexistence of chivalric and Machiavellian themes in the presentation of Hal and Bollingbrook and how the plays cannot be 'reduced' to represent only a the latter view but rather show a sort of shift and coexistence: that the moments of Machiavellian behavior took place within a chivalric order and were presentations of possibilities.  The chivalric order, if I understoon correctly, is seen as the underpining ideology.

I'm being terribly reductionistic here and because I've not read the plays in a long time I'm not capturing the nuances of his proposal but he did a great job of breaking it down and justifying his position.  It was a very interesting and I thought effective proposal for reading the texts.

He's working on a few revisions and then he's done. WTG man!

Hopefully he'll comment (or sue me for libel) if I've misrepresented his work–which given my sleep patterns these last two weeks is entirely possible.