Archive for July, 2007

July 29, 2007


by la rebelde

It’s hot outside. And even hotter in my apartment. I’m afraid it will get even hotter in the next few weeks. The dread of heat makes me think about sleeping, because heat makes me sleepy and because it’s hard to sleep when it’s too hot.

When I was 8 years old, we moved from our small adobe (the real kind) home near Cinco Puntos into a brand-new double-wide home on wheels near the railroad tracks almost as far south on 2nd Street as the road goes in Alburquerque’s South Valley. It was so exciting because the trailer house came furnished, with furniture that matched the wallpaper and curtains that matched the carpets. My mom never cared whether anything matched—only if it was cheap–so this was a first. My parents had the trailer set on an empty lot, on a dead-end dirt road, surrounded by tumbleweeds and unfortunately, no trees. All of our neighbors lived in trailer houses too. For the first few weeks in our new place, we had no electricity or gas. Luckily, we had water. If you’ve ever lived in a trailer house, you’ll know that they don’t have very good insulation, that they trap heat inside like a big ole oven. And in the nuevo méxico sunshine, it couldn’t get any hotter. As kids, we didn’t seem to notice the heat too much. We were too busy playing outside, going to swimming lessons and doing other summertime things that need not be done in the house. It was only at night that I really remember the feeling of being too hot.

When we first moved in, we had to use flashlights at night. It forced us to go to bed earlier than usual. Even though desert nights were cool, there was not enough air circulation to bring in the outside air. Once the electricity was up and running, my brothers and I would take turns sleeping in front of the air conditioner on three dining chairs we’d pull together to stretch out on. My mom would often put a large box fan in between my brothers’ room and mine. She would shift it so that each of our rooms got the fan for a little bit–fifteen minutes toward their room, fifteen minutes toward mine. Sleeping in the heat was miserable. Three years later we moved across the Río Grande to Los Padillas. Our adobe house was surrounded by tall fruit trees and cottonwoods. We didn’t even need the fans after that. It was such a welcome relief.

There was only one other time I remember being that hot. It was the summer of 1999, between college and grad school. I stayed in an awful third-floor walk-up studio apartment in Brooklyn with my ex. I was trying to find temp work, but ended up spending most of the days in the apartment with the windows open, hoping it would cool down, the smell of pigeon crap wafting into the room from the fire escape. I never got a good night’s rest that summer because the heat made me toss and turn. That was the first summer in a long time that the electricity went out in NYC. Too many people were too hot and using up all the juice. For a week or so, I went to the law firm with my ex, spending the day in an empty office so that I could be in the air conditioning. The electricity only went out in the poor brown areas, like Washington Heights and Harlem. Of course, midtown and downtown, the financial districts, were fine. I remember being really pissed off that despite the requests of the city for folks to conserve energy, those corporate assholes kept the a.c. going full-blast. I was pissed too, because had my ex not been a law student intern, I would not have had a cool place to escape from the heat. I was pissed because there were sick people stuck in their apartments without elevator access, people who were scraping by and whose food spoiled, viejitos who were dying because the temperatures in their apartments were unhealthily high. And yet, the a.c. and every single light and computer, regardless of whether they were in use, was on in the law firm where I found refuge from the blazing heat.

It’s not even as hot in my LA apartment now as it was in the trailer or in that Brooklyn apartment. But it reminds me of how much worse it could be. Some day soon, I will have a job that will allow me to pay for an apartment with central air. Hopefully it will be in a place where sunshine abounds. I keep telling myself I’ve lived in hotter and worse conditions, in hopes that it will make me feel a little cooler. But it hasn’t worked. It does, however, remind me to conserve energy more.

July 26, 2007

non-aventuras on the l.a. metro.

by la rebelde

Today I had a lunch meeting in Chinatown with one of my committee profas—the first real conversation I’ve had about my research since I defended my prospectus in December. And this morning I decided that it’s time I make use of the l.a. metro system. I mean really make use of it—not just ride it between Union Station and the 7th St/Flower St stop because I’m too lazy to walk 30 minutes to meet a friend for mid-week lunch.

I planned to park at the Fillmore St station in Pasadena and ride the gold line to Chinatown. But when I arrived at the station, I couldn’t find the parking lot. I drove around in circles for a while, thinking I might have been in the wrong spot. So I called a friend, who graciously gave me directions. Once in the parking lot, there were no spaces left. Of course there were no spaces left—there was only room for about 50 cars!

There were no street spaces left either. So I had to brave the 110. And hiiiiiijole, that stretch of the Arroyo Seco Parkway is pure madness, I’m telling you! It felt like I became a character in Speedracer, that freeway is so ridiculously windy. I was going a little above the speed limit, but cars were zipping by me on either side. The speed limit is only 55mph for a reason people! As I gripped the wheel and prayed to la virgen that I would not lose control of my vehicle while making such sharp turns at a high speed, I cursed the l.a. metro system. What’s the point of having a metro system, if it’s so incredibly inconvenient? And what kind of sense does it make to drive all the way to Chinatown or Union Station (which is where I park when I go downtown), only to pay for parking and THEN get on the metro to go downtown? And why isn’t there a place to swipe your ticket? I mean, don’t they know they’re losing money on that thing? If they had ticket swipy turnstyle things like in n.y.c. or…every other city that has a decent train system…they might use that money to build a dang parking garage. Geez!

Finally in Chinatown, I had to park…you guessed it…in the paid lot right next to the Chinatown metro station. Ugh. But I had a great meeting with my profa. She really helped me work through some questions I’ve been grappling with as my research in los archivos unfolds. She articulated how my project is becoming more textured and specific in a way that will be great when it comes to the writing part. And she reminded me, again, why it is that I’m committed to doing the kind of project I’m doing. She’s a good mentor and because of that, she’s definitely my most favorite committee person. It makes me feel guilty for thinking that, but then again, committee members aren’t like kids, so it’s probably okay that she’s my favorite.

After lunch and a long discussion, I had to pick up some odds and ends in Chinatown. I walked down Broadway, glaring every now and then at the metro station with it’s orientalist design, which I could see between the buildings. On the way back, I sang along with my groovin’ playlist, and I thought, the 110 isn’t so bad the second time around. But I still would have rather taken the damn metro.

Mi profa and I walked by the “chinatownland” sign on our way to her car. She said she thought it was a silly wannabe hollywood sign–something that didn’t even occur to me the last several times I’d walked by that sign. When I’d taken this photo of it a couple months ago, I thought it was an interesting way to lay claim to space, given the issues with gentrification that Chinatown residents are facing. But I actually have no idea what this sign is for, who put it there, or why it’s in what looks like an abandoned lot. Guess I could do some online research about it…but I’m tired, so maybe another day.

July 25, 2007

weird sueños.

by la rebelde

I had a series of weird dreams two nights ago. You know the kind—where they happen in short clips and you wake up all disturbed and go back to sleep, only to have another weird dream? I always wonder what they mean, but this time I’m at a loss.

Sueño 1: I was sitting at a table across from my ex, who I haven’t spoken to in three years. He said nothing. I said nothing. He pinched my forearm really hard, with abnormally long fingernails (and he’s no guitar player, believe me). I had to forcefully push him away and take back my arm. He broke skin, but there was no blood. When I woke up, I could actually feel the sting on my arm for a couple minutes before I fell asleep again.

Sueño 2: I was a photographer doing a self-portrait shoot for a magazine, in which I had to lay on my back and have 4-5 grey gatos sit on my stomach and legs. Once they were all arranged, I reached for my camara, but the gatos bit my hands and wouldn’t let go. I wanted to move my arms to shake them off, but I couldn’t. When I woke up, I still could not move my arms for a little while. It was a little scary. And I’m really not a gato fan. (Although there are a couple of gatos in this world who I’m cool with.)

Sueño 3: I was sharing an apartment with mi prima. Each of our rooms were equipped with a desk, plenty of bookshelves and a bed. I had dissertation-related books spread all over the place. We decided to go out for drinks one night and when we got home, I realized someone had broken into our place by throwing a red wrench through the window of my room. But only mi prima’s computer was missing. She’d had it sitting on her desk. Mine was still there, although I had left it in my bag. I felt really bad that her computer was stolen and mine wasn’t. Then I woke up and it was morning.

It’s been a while since I had weird dreams like that. I’m a big believer that dreams mean stuff. I don’t know what, but I think they do. But then again, maybe I’m wrong and they mean nothing. Am I the only one that has dreams in series?

July 20, 2007

future historian.

by la rebelde
I sat at the steering wheel of my papá’s car, driving north on US 285 through the small towns along the Río Grande. My grampa sat in the passenger seat, holding tightly onto the handle on the door. My 8-year-old nephew and my gramma sat in the backseat. We just passed Española and were headed toward the beginning of the canyon. It’s a familiar drive between Burque and Taos. As we passed by the Oñate Monument, my gramma pointed out the $2 million (more than that actually and in tax dollars!) bronze statue that was erected in Don Juan de Oñate’s likeness during the 1998 cuartocentenario (400 years) “celebration” of Spanish colonization of Pueblo peoples in what is now the U.S. state of nuevo méxico. That asshole really WAS a “war criminal” (as the Pueblos that protested the monument/celebration stated), not to mention ruthless, horrible jackass. Heeeell yea!

This is the statue of Don Juan de Oñate that stands in front of the Oñate monument in northern nuevo méxico. I hear the seam where they had to reattach his foot is still visible if you walk up to the statue. But I haven’t seen it and I’m trying not to go there, if I can help it.
I borrowed this photo from here. You can read more about it here and here.

Anyway, gramma brought up how a group of native people cut off Oñate’s right foot—the foot of the statue, that is. And of course, this sent my nephew into a series of questions of the “why?” variety. Too bad I didn’t have this quote from an article covering the story:

“We took the liberty of removing Oñate’s right foot on behalf of our brothers and sisters of Acoma Pueblo,” read a statement sent by the group, which later sent to news outlets a snapshot of its hostage foot. “We see no glory in celebrating Oñate’s fourth centennial, and we do not want our faces rubbed in it.”

I tried to explain how the cutting off of Oñate’s foot demands that history not be brushed aside. How it reminds us that master narratives are constantly recreated and reinforced, and that they legitimize colonization thereby reproducing it. Now the story of Oñate’s foot will be forever tied to the narrative about the monument, forcing all of us to recall the bloody, violent history of when Oñate ordered the right feet of Acoma men be cut off. I tried to explain to Sobrino how this awesome, symbolic act of resistance rewrote of the historical narrative without using the jargony words. Geez, it’s much harder than I thought!

Anyway, that night at my grandparents’ house, I asked him to bring me his book so we could read together. (His bedtime story–my brother’s trying to replace video game time with other, more constructive activities.) Out of his orange backpack, he pulled an old Reader’s Digest edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, originally published in 1943, and climbed onto the couch-turned-bed next to me. It is one of mi manito’s favorite books and one of the many, many Reader’s Digest books my grandparents had collected over the last few decades. Recently, they reorganized their living-room and all the books ended up in boxes out on the porch, waiting to be donated. I think manito rescued this one from the boxes, not to mention, the elements.

I turned to the page where mi prima had left off the night before and began reading. I’ve never read the book, except for the 2 chapters I read that night. They were about this little boy, who was still breast-feeding even though he was too old to be still breast-feeding. In fact, his demand for breast milk deprived his younger sister of breast milk. So his mother painted her chichi black with scary red teeth on the nipple and scared him off the teet. Personally I found this rather amusing. But my nephew was concerned about why a mother would scare her son so much…and possibly give him a heart attack. “Well, he was pretty young, so I’m sure his heart was strong enough to take the scare,” I said. Sobrino was not buying it. And soon he changed his questions back to the Spaniards.

In fact, he wanted to know about British and French colonization too. Somehow he made a connection between this story of a mother trying to ween her son of breast-feeding and colonization. I’m still trying to figure out what that connection was, how that young mind thought to link these two stories together. “Why didn’t we just fight the Europeans away with our spears?” he asked. (By “we,” he meant native peoples—Sobrino’s mother comes from a black-native family and our Chican@ side is mestiz@ with Pueblo roots except we are defined by the state as “Hispanic” which puts us in a position of privilege in many respects, but that is another, very long post.)

Let’s just say I did not see that coming! I think I know too much to give a succinct answer to such a huge question, one that historians have been asking for a long, long time. I tried to break down the us-and-them thing. Not sure he got it. Sobrino asked why the European colonizers came here in the first place. But he wouldn’t take “world domination” as the reason. I finally had to tell him just to go to bed. It was very late. We’d talk more about it another day. Before he got under the covers, he exclaimed, “This is fun, Tía!” he said. “And interesting too!”

Ahh, the child just warms my heart. Between this day and our visit to the JANM, I’m convinced he’s a young historian in the making. Now if only he would read more, instead of playing those horrible video games!

July 19, 2007

fruity goodness.

by la rebelde

When I was a little girl, my mom used to make teeny kabobs–grapes, pineapples, sandía, kiwi, cheese and turkey on toothpicks. Well, not all on one toothpick–they don’t all fit on there. Now that I think about it, toothpick kabobs were almost exclusively an outdoor lunch dish. My mom would bring them to the park, to the zoo (because we would never ever buy the expensive food at the zoo), or just out on the front porch. She even brought them to the movie theater a couple times, but that was not outdoors, and movie-going was a rare outing, so it didn’t stick.

As we grew older, my mom would cut up fruit and leave it on a tray in the kitchen for us to munch on after school. Sometimes she would put out veggies–string beans with jalapeño cheese sauce to dip in (some low-fat kind she figured out how to make), or cucumbers marinated in a vinegar mixture. I used to eat so much while we made dinner and chatted about the day.

Did I mention my mom’s a dietitian? Yea. Her logic was that if we snacked on fruits and veggies right before dinner, we’d eat less at dinner. “You’ll fill up on water,” she used to say. There were a lot of nutritious foods in our lives. If only I had the discipline to eat that healthily all the time now! But what I remember most is the feeling of sitting at the kitchen table with her, chopping cabbage, tofu, garlic, and mushrooms for dinner, chomping on these “healthy snacks” and talking non-stop. I have a tendency to do that, to talk too much. I think I must get that from her.

Yesterday I went to Costco and bought this enormous fruit salad. It didn’t occur to me that I’d have to eat the entire 4 pounds of it all by myself, since I live alone. I guess I was blinded by the colors in the bowl. It wasn’t until I sat down to eat it (well, a teeny tiny portion of it in the photo above), that I realized there were two important things missing–pineapples and my mama.

July 13, 2007

the internets and the realness.

by la rebelde

So one of my personal life-goals in the last few years has been to work on becoming a better incarnation of myself. To decide how I want to live my life, both for myself and as a member of communities. To spend time around people who are fundamentally generous AND intellectually rigorous. And by that I mean, people who question their roles in the world, how they are participants of oppressive systems at all times, and how love and liberation have to go hand-in-hand. (I know that’s all cheesy and oh-so-Obie of me, but that’s how I see it.) Most of my amig@s are these things and they are great mentors (in the collective sense, ya know?).

And lately I’ve been wondering about the role of technology in the building of communities, part of which, of course, is the formation of relationships. Not to get all Appadurai-theoretical on my own ass, but seriously. In the last few years I have joined email listserves that are supposed to aid in the creation of diasporic communities. I created a friendster profile to keep connected to old friends with whom I’ve lost touch over the years. I began to read my horoscope online on a regular basis just because I like to (although if there were no internets, I would read it daily in the paper-paper). I “chat” daily in abbreviated writing, with friends on instant messenger thingies. I’ve started writing this blog to become part of different communities/dialogs and work on my writing voice. And, most recently, I completed my fako myspace profile because several friends “discovered” my fako profile and invited me, so I tentatively uploaded a photo and filled in some stuff so it would be fako no more. I spend hours each day in front of the computer screen communicating with people without actually speaking to them on the phone or seeing their faces. In some ways, since my life and the lives of those in my communities are so transient and because we don’t freakin stop moving all around the world, we have no choice but to keep calling when we can and checking up on each other online when we can and finding time to visit in person when we can.

And it’s a lot of work. Friendships. Community. Relationships. They take commitment, time and energy to maintain, to grow.

Last week, at the wedding celebration of one of my closest amigas, elarkay, I was reunited with another of my old college roommates, who I see all too rarely, and who I dearly love even if we don’t call each other as often as we should. We lost track of time chatting over dinner. It was so great to remember how much we are still a part of each other’s lives. (I’ve been having a lot of these reunions lately!) She was asking about my “love life.” (Funny, I never call it that, but for lack of a better word, I’ll resort to the language of my middle school years. She’s been happily married for over 3 years now.) And she pointed out that the last few boys I’ve been involved with (or whatever the heck you call it) have resorted to communication largely via text. “Dating these days is so confusing to me with this texting and internet stuff. I don’t understand it!” she said. I don’t freakin understand it either! In my last serious relationship—which was long-distance for way too long—I’d barely discovered the cell phone. Shoooo.

But she’s right. Texting has been the communication of choice by these boys when we are not physically in the same room. Phone calls? MAYBE rarely, but texts on the regular. And I admit, I fully participate in this texting disaster because it seems that once it starts, it’s hard to stop it. Texting should be in addition to conversation, not in place of. And now? Myspace messages, comments, etc. We communicate on freakin myspace! And I didn’t even want to be on the dang myspace to begin with!

This is exactly why I have not even tried to date online. Because I cannot picture myself with someone who does not also see themselves as committed to being part of a community. And online dating doesn’t seem to be real to me because these online profiles and stuff don’t seem real to me. And isn’t all of this—friendships, communities, relationships, familia—supposed to be real? As in, not fake, no frontin, no bullshit? I mean, I enjoy hearing from amig@s now and again—even just the “what’s up homegirl, i was just thinking about you and thought i’d drop a quick line” kind of deals. But c’mon now!

Even my profa, communicates in incomplete, 3-4-word email sentences. I’ll write a long email updating my committee on the progress of my dissertation–something they asked me to do–and she’ll write back a two-word reply. I should note, however, that she also managed to limit our preliminary exam discussion meetings to only 20 minutes flat! (We were supposed to discuss about 15-20 books per meeting.)

Anyway, the other night, mi manito and I were sippin’ some beers and shootin the shitz. I was telling him that when I ask people how they are doing, I really mean it, but oftentimes they don’t actually answer the question. (Of course, people might not wish to share how they are actually feeling at the moment, so they might be avoiding the question. Or they could be assuming that I’m asking the question and not really meaning it.) Manito thinks that too much internet communication encourages people to build a stock of phrases that they use to begin or end messages/conversations with, most of which imply face-to-face connections. For example, “talk to you soon” or “see you soon”—only, you’re not going to talk “soon” or see each other “soon.” Manito’s pretty hardcore, so he even suggested that such stock phrases might reveal a lack of self-confidence—that we type these things because we feel we should, not because we actually mean it. He thinks I should just delete the online profiles all together—especially the myspace.

Yeah dude. The thing is, I’ve been able to get in touch with so many college and grad school friends who I haven’t heard from in years by using these online networking things… so I’m hesitant to scrap the online community thing all together. And yet, I envy my grandparents, who still rent their telephone (the kind you actually have to DIAL) from the phone company and only know how to call people who are already programmed into their cell phone (mi papá bought it for them, of course). They have real conversations with real people—even if only for 5 minutes at a time before they get frustrated that the conversation is not face-to-face.

In some ways, I think, the internet seems like just a tool to build community, as long as it doesn’t remain the sole means of communication, it can be a really good thing I think. AND online communication is different with people who you’ve already built relationships with. But sometimes I’m just so frustrated because it feels really impersonal and it’s difficult to move beyond the impersonal through typing. So here’s the pregunta: What do you think about building relationships/community via the internets? Have we become too dependent on technological advances (cell phone texting included)? Or is it just a matter of learning to love the internets?

p.s. I tend to think blogging and goodreads are different if only because they are often about storytelling. And I do love storytelling! (but that’s another post for another day.)