Archive for May, 2007

May 28, 2007

volar como la paloma.

by la rebelde

Lola Beltrán singing “Cucurrucucu Paloma” back in the day.

That morning I sat in the driver’s seat of my abuelos’ enormous Buick LeSabre, watching my grampa direct my driving from the rear-view mirror as I backed out of the shed. After I turned the car around in their lot, grampa pointed down the drive that leads to the road, wanting me to pull up to the door, so my gramma could get in the back seat and so he could take his time getting in and buckling up. It seems like they age so much more each time I visit. That morning we were on our way to the hospital to visit my Tía B. Just days before, we heard her illness had turned for the worst and almost all mis prim@s, tías y tíos, and her comadres had gathered in northen nuevo méxico to see her.

Tía B was my gramma’s closest sister—the second of thirteen children, she was only a couple years older. My gramma is the third. “I miss you, I missed you!” Tía B had said to Gramma the last time. (Because Gramma and Grampa had been to Alburquerque the week before to celebrate Grampa’s 83rd birthday at el casino bingo with mi papá.) That morning I stood with my gramma and my older prima–her daughter–around the bed, gently rubbing Tía’s leg. She looked at me, and recognized who I was. She started to say something, but the effort hurt her too much. Prima said quietly, “She wants to talk, pero no puede.” I smiled at Tía, but I didn’t speak for fear of bursting into tears, and making my gramma cry too. Afterward, we’d gone for a walk in the park and for frito pies at the local familia joint and for groceries. It had been comforting to be in a place where everyone but the hippies and tourists is familia, or knows our familia from way back. When we got the call, my gramma immediately started calling her herman@s. “Se murió, se murió,” she said over and over, as my grampa and I sat in the living room, listening. “That’s a dirty job, calling all those people,” my grampa said. That’s what I remember most vividly about that day—the sound of Gramma’s voice and the feeling of not wanting to stop hugging her.

The last few days were spent celebrating Tía’s life—velarios, rosarios, comidas, una misa, y más. And yesterday, we all stood around the place where Tía’s ashes would be buried alongside Tío’s, “so they can hold hands” I remember someone saying. The deacon explained to the niñitos the steps that los católicos de nuevo méxico take when mourning the death of a loved one. That she was now una angelita. How we could pray to her along with la virgen. For some reason, I believed him this time (despite my strained relationship with the church over the last couple decades). And I watched mi prima, who’s around my same age, kneel by the grave, taking la tierra in both hands and holding it up to the skies before crumbling it between her fingers and sprinkling it in, trying to hold back the tears and the mocos. I can’t help but think about how I will be in her place soon.

My gramma told many cuentos this week. Here is my favorite.

When Tía first started dating my Tío, my gramma was about 15 years old and my tía was about 17. Tío lived about 5-6 miles away from my great gramma’s house. And since Gramma rode her bicicleta to work at the train station ticket booth in town after school, she would sometimes take Tía to his house first, peddling with my tía holding onto her shoulders from behind, standing on the edges of the wheel’s center—the part that doesn’t spin too. Tío would walk her home before dark, waiting a bit away from the house, and they never told my great gramma where she’d been. (Although I’m sure she must have known—they always seem to know, don’t they?)

Great gramma was very strict. And she made sure that the girls would act like “proper” young ladies. When they went to the bailes, they were not to turn down a dance with any boy who asked. And they would have to sit in a row on a bench alongside the wall. Whoever sat next to Great Gramma, would get a fierce pinch in the arm, if they misbehaved. Gramma said she learned to sit as far away from Great Gramma as possible. “I always sat at the other end of the bench because I learned.”

Shortly after my gramma and grampa were married (after my Grampa returned from WWII), they joined my Tía B and Tío P at the plaza for a baile. Grampa and Tío went to the bar, leaving my Gramma and her sister to themselves. A man asked Gramma to dance, but she said no. “My mom would have given me a good pinch if she knew!” she said. Sooner or later, the boy went up to the mic where the band was singing and announced how my gramma didn’t want to dance with him. And he had the band play “vuela la paloma” to her. Gramma said Tía B had laughed and laughed, and she wouldn’t let her live that one down. “That’s what you get for saying no,” she’d chuckled. “Well, I didn’t want to dance with him. He danced like this!” my gramma told me, demonstrating how badly he danced, grinning as she moved her arms all about. I laughed so hard when she told me the story, trying hard to imagine what Gramma and Tía were like as young mujeres, close amigas y hermanas.

Vuela como la paloma, Tía B. Mil gracias por todo. Y te quiero mucho.

May 21, 2007

the "i am" meme.

by la rebelde

I was tagged for this meme by the lovely Emily. (Sorry it took me a while to get to it, girl!) If I got the rules down right, you’re supposed to make a list of phrases/sentences beginning with “I am…” It’s rather existential, but in a good way!

I am always trying to become a better incarnation of myself.

I am anxious that I’m never going to get through all these oral history tapes so I can move on to otros archivos and so I can get to writing this pinche dissertation.

I am hopeful that this academia thing will someday get better—even though I’m realistic that it probably won’t.

I am “taking the long way” like the very awesome Dixie Chicks, who I love.

I am sitting on the bed in my bro’s guest room, typing out this meme.

I am waiting to meet a good (brown) guy, who likes me, who I actually like back, who is fundamentally generous and intellectually rigorous, and who isn’t intimidated by my smarts. Is that too much to ask?

I am a story-teller, like mis abuelos, and also because I’m (supposedly) academically trained to be one.

I am fortunate to have good amig@s and brothers who share their lives, loves, hopes, worries and dreams with me and I with them.

I am sometimes wasteful and often selfish when it comes to the world’s resources, but try not to be when I can.

I am a privileged-ass U.S. citizen.

I am so happy that I live in a place where sunshine abounds and that my skin has not turned a bizarre shade of putrid grey as it did in small-midwestern-college-town.

I am annoyed that warm weather brings out the idiot in straight l.a. men/boys, that I can’t walk on the sidewalk or drive in my car without getting hooted at, that they stare at my chichis and my ass, as if they’ve never seen a woman before or like they’ve just gotten out of prison or as if I can’t see them objectifying me. I can see you muthafuckas! And no, I do not want a freakin ride.

I am sarcastic, but always try to hold on to my integrity.

I am very short, but I like to think I have a big personality…sometimes.

And I am tagging my buddies lilytx, elarkay, kiita, mi tocaya and pete.

May 21, 2007

making GRADual progress.

by la rebelde

Hey y’all. Mi bloga has been featured on the 10th Carnival of GRADual Progress (hosted this month by Miss Kisha). It’s the spot for grad student blogas en el internet. Check out how we are surviving…and griping…you know, it’s all a part of this life we’re living!

May 11, 2007

always a struggle.

by la rebelde

Over lunch today, a good friend and I reflected on our experiences with graduate school. She has had a much more difficult time than most and, a while back, decided to leave grad school. Listening to her own self-reflexive thoughts on her experiences in academia, and her perspectives now that she’s not an academic, reminded me of how difficult it is to be women of color academics. (Well, I never really need reminding but tu sabes.) And I’ve been reading a lot of what other grad student and junior faculty bloggers have been thinking. It’s a lot—sometimes overwhelming, but always good to remember that we are not alone in those feelings of isolation.
Of frustration in having to work extra because our intelligence is not assumed like it often is for most white men.
Of outrage because our topics are not always respected by the canon, because our very presence in the department/field/classroom/institution is not acknowledged, because sometimes our bodies are objectified out in the open as if no one will notice or care.
Of urgency to connect personally, intellectually, and socially with our communities beyond the campus environment.
And of anger at having to navigate often-hostile waters, anti-intellectual faculty/departmental politics, and the (sometimes, hopefully more often than not) well-meaning colleagues who study race, gender, class and sexuality because it’s “an interesting intellectual project.”
For me, these experiences in grad school often make me feel paralyzed in my own work, even though I (finally!) have a very supportive committee.

I recalled a discussion with another close friend who, like many of my friends, has been working diligently on her dissertation. This mujer has been blessed with great energy. (I don’t mean physical energy, but the kind that is really thoughtful, meaningful, generous, and just…good.) Whenever I talk with her, she has a way of simplifying the situation and assuaging my anxiety, by showing me that there is still room for me to take charge of my own situation, that I should not feel that I must depend on responses from mis profes. She reminds me of my own agency, which is something I think we all need to be reminded of occasionally.

The other day I was telling her how, this time last year I sat before my committee for the oral defense portion of my exams (qualifying or comprehensive or preliminary—whatever you want to call it). I was so lucky to have had a really wonderful experience with very supportive faculty. At the time, they suggested I turn my MA thesis (which I wrote four freakin‘ years ago!) into an article submission. They wanted me to “get something out of it” especially since my dissertation topic would be taking a slight turn. They asked me to forward the most recent draft of it, which I had workshopped with general U.S. history and American Studies colleagues a year before. I sent it to them right away. Now, a year later, despite gentle reminders, they still have not responded to the draft. (I understand that they have had a lot going on this year.) After another gentle reminder last week, profa replied, very apologetically about having let it slip and said she’d look over it this week. I can’t really complain about that, actually. It’s probably the best response I could expect.

But what my amiga pointed out was that I shouldn’t wait for them to respond to my draft, that it has actually now been 2 years since I worked on that piece. And that I know so much more, am so much more confident in my scholarship and ideas, that I might see things now I did not see then. Perhaps I need to just work on it myself and submit it anyway, with or without comments from the profes. “I think you should trust yourself,” she said. And I think she’s right.

This made me think of other instances, where I’ve been frustrated with certain colleagues (and sometimes with myself) for often relying too much on our faculty members to guide us, to explain the process without our asking, to be those really great mentors that we all hope ourselves to be. And there have been some really awful advisors—the anti-mentor kind and the kind who are just plain jackasses. But at the same time I’ve been discouraged in the past by fellow grad students who, I thought, were having trouble seeing that they need to decide what they can and cannot control in the midst of the wackness of academia, to take ownership of their educational experiences. And here I was doing that very thing…again—feeling like I could not make moves on this article project until mis profes said I was ready. I guess it’s always a struggle, a process of becoming—for all of us.

One thing I am damn sure of, though, is that this is a collective process, that we must be willing to ask each other the difficult/risky questions as we navigate the world and its institutions. And I could not do this alone, without the support of community, without being a part of communities. So, to all my good amig@s, academics or otr@s, mil gracias for being mi comunidad and for trusting me to be yours!
– – – – – –
p.s. to give credit where credit is due, the impetus for writing this post was sparked over the last few weeks by my perusal of posts written by kisha, namaste, negative capability, the red balloon chaser, Lorna Dee Cervantes and by lots of amig@s

May 8, 2007

muggle memorias.

by la rebelde

I’ve been kinda proud of myself these days, not only because I’ve been going to spinning classes regularly, but more importantly, because I’ve finally developed a regular schedule—one that involves regular visits to los archivos! Let me be clear about this, though—I’m still not a fan of the library. And I’m definitely (still) not a fan of sitting in front of a bunch of old dusty papers trying to coax a story to emerge from seemingly disparate documents, photos, letters, pamphlets, and most recently for me, cassette tapes. I like to tell the story, but not the process of searching for the pieces. It’s just that I will never be that kind of historian—you know, the kind who just loves to immerse him/herself in their documents (with a capital “D”)? Yea, I am not that girl.

If I was a graduate of Hogwarts, I would find a spell to make the images of historical actors arise from the dust and tell me what the heck they thought was going on back then. But then again researching for the spell probably involves los archivos—those Hogwarts kids seem to spend a lot of time in the library, and their books are super old and mad dusty! Or else I would just jump into Dumbledore’s pensieve—the cauldron thingy where he stores his memorias, memorias that take the shape of silver cobweb-like slivers, which he pulls out of his head with his wand to free up space in his brain and so he can go back and see stuff he doesn’t remember. I would hope that the folks, whose stories I want to know about, stored their memorias in those pensieve thingies too. That way I could just watch the scene. One could say that the archival collection itself is akin to the pensieve—but I already tried to trick myself into thinking that and it didn’t work. (If you don’t understand the pensieve thingy, you must read the Harry Potters—or at the very least, watch the movies. In case you’re curious, Harry discovers the cauldron memory thing in book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

But alas, I am a muggle and there are no pensieves in my world. And since I’ve had trouble getting going on the dusty papers after I finished my dissertation prospectus, I’ve found that it helps me to de-center the archives in my life. I’m trying to make “regular” visits and attempting not to structure my entire week around these visits. I’m hoping to find some semblance of balance, even if it’s only superficial. That’s why I’m making my spinning classes/running routine a “regular” part of my life. Morning is for exercising or relaxing or doing a bit of writing. (Okay, who am I kidding? Morning is for bolting out of bed to the gym or laying in bed listening to NPR for an hour or longer.) Afternoon/early evening is for working. Later evening is for whatever I feel like I need to do, which, believe it or not, sometimes involves my dissertation. But on the real, evening is usually for watching primetime television or catching up with las girlfriends on the phone. We’ll see how well this schedule works for me and how long I’m able to trick myself into following it. In the meantime, I’ll keep imagining my world melded into the wizard world.

today’s aventura en los archivos:
The student worker woman who monitors the reading room in the special collections fell asleep at the throne-like structure that towers in the front of the room by the door. (If I was in undergrad library worker, I might have taken a nap too!) She is in charge of bringing us our requested documents, books or what-have-you. She’s also in charge of letting people in and out of the room, by pressing a secret button under the counter to release the door lock. While she was sleeping, another researcher finished up for the day, gathered his things and headed for the door. He didn’t want to wake her up or make noise in the dead silence of the room, so he frantically waved at the people at the desk outside the reading room through the door window. They didn’t see him. Finally the student worker woke up with a start and let him out, with a look of embarrassment of having been caught asleep on the job. I had to fight the urge to giggle out loud at the situation because it was kinda funny. Because I had been cooped up in that stuffy room for hours. Because I was tired from straining to hear una viejita tell her story on a cassette tape recorded in the 1970s. And because I was afraid I’d be in the same situation if she fell asleep again and I had to go to the bathroom. I figured what-goes-around-comes-around is nothing to mess with.

May 6, 2007

porque now you live in l.a.

by la rebelde

At 8:30 this morning I was jolted awake by the ear-piercing ring of my cell phone. My dad was calling to check on my flat-tire situation, which transpired yesterday. “You need to have all four of your tires replaced,” he said definitively. “Porque now you live in LA.” I love how my dad thinks in such dramatic terms about my living in LA now. It’s like all precautions one would take in Burque are to be taken to the extreme in Los Angeles. After all, my dad should know—he lived here in 1969, a point he likes to remind me of quite often.

Yesterday I had morning coffee and a bagel with my good friend, Miss J, at a cute little coffee shop I recently learned of. When I parked the car, she pointed out that one of my tires needed some air. After she left, I headed to the gas station, where I found another tire was even lower than the one my friend pointed out. I filled them all before embarking on the hour-long drive to the library, where I would spend the afternoon listening to testimonios–oral history interviews conducted in the 1970s. Old tapes on old tape players. Let’s just say I wasn’t looking forward to it. (More on los archivos some other day. I’m admittedly avoiding writing about them because I’m in denial about lots of things dissertation-related.)

When I got back to my car, the tire—not the one J pointed out, the other one—was completely flat. Visions of shredded rubber, black streaks on grey pavement, and cars spinning out of control on the freeway flashed through my mind. I had to wait almost 2 hours for the tow guy to drive through heavy Friday afternoon traffic so he could come put the spare on for me. I watched him work. It seemed so simple, I was kicking myself! Why didn’t I pay more attention when my dad showed me how to do this a few years ago? Wait, do I even have the upper-body strength to turn the wrench? And why did I decide to drive 25 miles from my apartment on a questionable tire? Oh yeah…the lure of the pinche dissertation. Anyway, I took the streets to get home because I was afraid of driving on the freeway with a shady tire that makes my car look like it has a skeleton leg. Thank goodness my girl warned me about the tires, otherwise I could have been stranded on the 10!

So my dad called to get the car update. It’s what he does to show that he loves me. He talks about my car and helps me with the costs of repair work until I get a “real” job. He asks about school, expecting a short, yes-or-no type of answer. It’s his way of being a part of my adult life. Which leads me back to why I was on the west side in the first place and why I’m even in LA—to write my dissertation.

So at 8:30 PST this morning–which I think is early on a Saturday–my dad was just sitting down to breakfast at IHOP in burque with mi manito and my grandparents. As I answered the phone “Hi Papá,” I heard his voice some 900 miles away, “Scrambled. Sausage links. And whole grain pancakes, if you don’t mind.” “What?” I croaked through my sleep. “Heeeey! How’s your car?!” he said all jolly and awake-like. He must have been in a really good mood. I love when my dad is jolly. After talking about the car for a while, he did our familia ritual, passing the cell phone around the table so I could say hello to the folks.

“Hi grandma. How are you?” I said. “Comiendo, as usual. I’m having the Belgian waffle. Come join us!” she said…as usual. Then my grandpa took the phone. “I hear you have a flat tire!” he said. “Yes,” I smiled. “Which side is it flat on?” he asked. I was confused. “What do you mean?” “Well, it’s only flat on the bottom side, right?” he laughed. My grandparents are so cute.

I wish I could join them for breakfast. I’m due for a trip home soon, for reals. I really miss mi familia today…porque now I live in LA.