Friday, March 3, 2017

The Church of Rock and Roll

Last night, I saw Green Day live at the County Coliseum. It's the second time I've seen the band. The first time, was in the early 2000's when they toured with Blink-182, and I was too you to know all the small things really wasn't going to matter.

When we got there, the place was already packed and the super fan music-heads were sprinkled in with their newer fans who sported updated 2017 grunge wear. I pointed to D and laughed. Flannel and El Paso didn't work in 90's and climate change hasn't made it any friendlier.

I really didn't know what to expect from the band, though. When I tried to think back to that first concert, I didn't really remember it much. Now, I've gone to a fair amount of shows in my life, so they do start to run together, but I usually remember at least one thing, but with the 2002 show, well, I really couldn't, which in retrospect was maybe a good thing. I was going in with a clean slate.

Thirty minutes in, after the crowd cheering to things like " No racism. No homophobia. No sexism. No fucking walls," the energy was reaching peak levels. Green Day's mission, and they said it several times throughout the show, was to make us feel joy.

Joy.

It's a really simple word, but not one we use often. I can't remember the last time I said it or wrote or felt it. That's odd, isn't it? I feel happy, a lot of the time. Content. Happy. Upset. Sad. But, joy? When he first asked us to show him joy, we all screamed and cheered at the top of our lungs, but even as I did it, I just felt like I was screaming. I wasn't feeling joy. I was trying to be loud. Billie Joe crinkled his nose and nodded unconvinced. I didn't know where it was going, but Longview was coming up, so I quickly forgot.

Fast forward thirty more steamy minutes and Tre Cool did leg kicks a la Vegas showgirl while singing Jame Brown's "Shout." We all sang along, and when Billie Joe and Tre switched places and they got us to all sing "a little bit softer now" Billie Joe withered on the stage and said,

"Rock and roll is going to set us free."

Then we sang along to him to Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction."

"This is unity," he said while we sang.

And it was. I looked around for a moment and saw all the raised hands and the voices singing as loud as they could, and I saw it.

Joy.

The kind I've never understood that people get by going to places like church. Even as I saw the word church, I wrinkle my nose. I find organized religion odd and stifling. And when I've seen that weird kind of elation on TV, it's never quite made sense to me. But last night, in the damp, dank seats of the Coliseum, a sea of people felt joy as they sang along to their favorite songs with arms raised and voices going hoarse. That's when he smiled.

"This is joy," he said.

And it was. And it was rock and roll that took us there. And it was freeing and wonderful not thinking about anything other than that music, singing that word, moving my body to the music.

Today, my throat is a little raw, but the feeling remains. It lingers in my mouth like the last taste of something delicious.

Joy.



Friday, January 27, 2017

As the World Goes Crazy

As the world goes crazy, the essay I wrote for Entropy magazine swims in my head. The title, "All They See is Brown" is on repeat in my mind. And when I feel a panic bubble up through my chest from all the talks of Mexico and walls and anti-abortion marches and pipelines andandandand the title repeats.


Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown 

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Toast to the Stayton's

(tapping on glass to get guests attention)

Hello!Good Evening,

For many of you who don't know me, I 'm Yasmin, one of Sarah's closest friends. In fact, if we had had the chance to chose siblings, I would have chosen Sarah. And, I know that if Sarah had decided to have a maid of honor, that would have been my role. And now, for the sake of sparing my feelings, I know she won't deny that.

(pause for audience laughter)

So, I want to say a few words about Chris and Sarah. I want to make this quick. because this night isn't about us. It's about this couple and everything they've done to organize this celebration. Many times, weddings lose focus, and I want to bring the focus back on them and the path that led them here, together, with us this evening. First, I want to thank you for having us be a part of your celebration.

(Sarah and Chris nod and smile at guests)

When Sarah first told me about Chris, we were sitting in my living room drinking margaritas.  She showed me a website he'd made for her. It was quirky and funny. It was Sarah. I thought it was one of the most thoughtful things that anyone had done for her. Now, I didn't meet Chris until much later, but the website stuck out to me, because I thought, "If he took the time to do that for her, and he's just met her, he'll do much more."

When we finally did meet, I could tell he was a little nervous, and I tried not to give him the steal-y Sally eye. After some time, though, there wasn't any need for the eye. And, Sarah can tell you I have the eye.

(Yasmin gives the eye to the crowd they laugh)

But, in all seriousness, when your best friend gets married, you hope and pray that he will be a good guy for her. You hope and pray that you get along with him, because in order to be a part of her life, you have to share her with a man you don't know very well. (yet!) Mostly and most importantly, you just hope that she will be happy. And when I see Sarah with Chris, I know she's happy. I see the way he looks at her. He treats her like the most delicate thing in the world, and I know that I don't have to worry anymore. I know that he will protect her. Take care of her. Cherish her.

Finding love with someone isn't easy. I think everyone in this room knows that. The path is bumpy and sometimes loops and turns and loops again. The fact that Sarah and Chris found each other isn't something we should just be happy about. Tonight, we aren't just witnessing a wedding, we're witnessing a blossoming bud of a new family. And if that isn't something to marvel about, I don't know what is.

 So, I hope that you all will join me in celebrating the Stayton's and watching them blossom.

(Yasmin raises her glass and mouths 'love you' to Sarah)








Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Switching Hats

All summer long, I've been a writer. I developed a schedule where I woke up at 8am every day, went to my boxing gym, came home by 10:15, had a protein shake, and wrote. I would write until almost 5pm. Some days were more productive than others. Even when I couldn't write, I refused to leave the seat in front of my computer. This often caused the hubs to hate my writer's block because I often You Tube'd DIY home improvement projects for us to complete on the weekend.

Now the summer is over. Now, I am no longer a writer. I am a professor. Repeat. I am a professor.

We all play different roles. For example, I am a

daughtersisterauntwifeniecefriendwomansisterinlawbestfriendcoworkerreaderelpasoan

writer. 

I am always all of these things. But this summer my main focus was being a writer. I've never had that opportunity before, and I liked it. It sort of made me re-remember why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. And although that isn't over, I have to switch hats. I am a 

professor

now. I have to put that first. Not only because I have students who rely on me and a job who allows me to be a writer only in the summer, but because I truly like it as well. Today, I taught a class and the energy was just there. It was perfect. They laughed at all my well-placed jokes and after watching The Art of Storytelling  they left feeling a bit inspired. (Their words not mine). And when I walked out of the classroom, I was floating on air. I felt taller. I felt like I'd made a difference and laid great groundwork for a thought provoking class. 

That was at 8:30am this morning. It's 1:30, and I'm sitting at a table on campus to help lost students find their classrooms. I am writing this. I am thinking about my roles. I am thinking about how I will balance these roles. I'm praying that professor does not become so tall that writer becomes a short squat shadow at high noon. 

Repeat this: I am a writer. I am a professor. I am a writer. I am a professor. I am a . . . 




Friday, July 8, 2016

I only found myself


Last night, I dreamt you. I dreamt you were an old man. You were the kind of old man I’d never imagined, though. Your hair had gone white and your barrel-shaped body thin, deflated.

You came up to me in a Kmart, a place I never shop, and asked if I recognized you. I didn’t. The only thing that gave me a hint it was you was the stark difference of your brown skin against a straw like white beard.  

                “I’m sick,” you said.

                “What do you want me to do?” I asked.

                “Be with me. Be there. For me," you said.           

How could you ask that of me? Laughter bubble up at the base of my throat. How could you?  Even in a dream, why would you ask that? My breath heaved until I was bigger. Full of anger. I looked up as if looking for God in the sky, but I only found myself. I created this dream. 
               
               “You stopped being there for me 30 years ago,” I yelled.

The words oozed from my mouth and held all the black fetid water that comes with anger. My voice quivered, and I grew taller than you. Bigger. You were in my shadow now.

You shrank from me as if I’d raised a hand to you. The words were enough I suppose.

I just did the math. It was actually 22 years ago. Twenty-two years later, and I still dream you. I dream versions of you because I haven’t seen you in fourteen years. I don’t know what you look like, and even in a city where six degrees of separation is smaller, I’ve never run into you.

I like that. I don’t like that.

The brave version of me wants to prove I don’t care. It thinks I would act as if nothing happened after. Maybe you wouldn’t even recognize me. The real version of me knows I will be brave but cry in the car like the day I left your house when I asked why you didn’t take care for me the way a father should have.

Last night I dreamt you. In the dream your family tried to make me feel guilty.

              “Es tu Papá,” they said, “Lo debes de cuidar.”

                I sneered, “You should take of him. You’re his family.”

My sister told me I should forgive you. She’s said those words in real life after Ita died, too. She said she didn’t want me to have regrets. My dream tells me if you die, that it will be sudden. I imagined the phone call in the dream. My mom calls. I feel sad, but then I don’t know the rest because you are a stranger.

I am angry at a stranger.

Last night, I dreamt you. It showed me that my subconscious thinks of you. It wonders what you have become. It wants to know if you care who I’ve become. It tells me that even though you are a stranger, the little girl in me foolishly loves you. It also tells me that the adult me wishes she didn’t exist anymore.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sunday en Segundo


Sunny spring Sundays always brought the people out of their red brick apartments. The rows of doorways popped open and screen doors kept the flies out. Opened windows let in the fresh breeze and sunlight. The neighborhood knew to take advantage of it because there were only a few days like this in El Paso’s spring before the winds came.

            El Freddy walked down 3rd Street toward Stanton.  He’d just left from La Bowie where he ate a warm empanada. He’d passed on the cafecito even though he thought it always made the piña of the empanda taste sweeter, but it was too warm for café.

            As he walked, he passed some vatos who were riding around the barrio on their tricked out chrome blinding bikes. El Freddy nodded as he passed them and he heard their laughter as one of them hit the curb and almost wiped out. El Freddy didn’t laugh but just smiled. In the alley, he heard the sounds of chavitos as they kicked a worn soccer ball shirtless and barefoot up and down toward makeshift goal posts. He liked the sounds of his gente as he made his way to his compa Beto’s house. Cumbias spilled out of the windows and mingled with the vatos and chavitos laughter. La Señora Lupe was sweeping the sidewalk in front of her door and she nodded at him as he passed. Her eyes were steely and even though El Freddy hadn’t done anything wrong his gaze moved down toward his feet.

            Esa Señora era bruja, he thought and walked faster.

            El Freddy found Beto outside, like everyone else, sitting in his dark green Oldsmobile wiping down the dashboard with Armor All.  He wiped around a black sticker with white letters that said “Raza is Love”. Beto’s ruca had stuck it there one evening after they’d smoked because she thought it was beautiful.  He heard the easy notes of Malo’s Suavecito flowing out of the car.

            Laaaa-ah-ah, la-la, laaaa-ah-ah
Laaaa-ah-ah, la-la, laaaa-ah-ah

            That’s what today was. Suavectio. El Freddy leaned against the side of the car and shot the shit while Beto made sure the inside of his ride gleamed so bright it hurt the eyes of anyone walking by.

Suavecito, mi linda
Suavecito
The feelin’ I have inside for you
Suavecito, mi linda

They checked out the chavas as they walked by and laughed when the girls rolled their eyes at them. They were laughing so hard that El Freddy almost missed her. A mamacita he’d seen around a few times but never talked to was getting out of an old Buick across the street. He stared as she bent at the waist, arms against the window frame, to talk to the driver. Her tight bell bottoms hugged all her curves and he couldn’t stop staring at the jean clad corazoncito facing him.

            “Ay,” he said to Beto and jutted his chin in her direction.

            Beto turned to look, shook his hand fingers flapping freely and said, “Esa ruca, man. Tiene un culo,” then bit his lip.

            As she straightened up, she turned to look behind her and saw El Freddy and Beto staring. El Freddy froze, lips parted, but no sound came out. She smiled at him, flipped her dark hair, and disappeared toward the corner tienda. The Buick roared off.

            Never, I never meet a girl like you in my life
            I never, no, no yeah
            I never meet a girl like you in my life

            “Andale,” Beto said toward the store.
            
            El Freddy looked at Beto, smoothed his hands on his faded Levi’s, and nodded.   




Thursday, June 23, 2016

She was Fierce

I once knew a woman who was fierce. She stood at the helm of her ship every day, dark hair flowing in the ocean breeze ready to face whatever the sea held for her.  She manned her ship in the vast open ocean and always managed to keep the small ship from capsizing. The ocean, not always friendly to sea goers, seemed to regard her with respect.  She worked hard on her ship and even when waves and storms crashed against the sides of the boat, she held quick to helm in even the darkest skies. 

At night, she would stare up at the stars and plan for what was next. The pinhole lights against the stark black background held all the wishes she made every night. She lived like this for longer than anyone knew. Her boat was always moving back and forth across the sapphire seas. Until a storm that not even she could handle rolled in unexpectedly. The bright blue skies shifted into darkness. Try as she might, the boat capsized.  She fought and swam but the waves threw her to and fro. Hours later, shaking and worn she somehow floated on the surface of the now still water.  She cried, her tears adding to salt in the waters, alone in the ever-moving waves, but she seemed to stay still. She stayed floating above the waters of her sunken ship. And even as the waves tried to shift her toward land, she would not move. She heard them whisper to her, “We will move you to shore”, but she didn’t want to leave her ship. Even when the waves managed to shift her a little closer toward solid ground, she swam back, her heart knowing the location of her beloved sunken ship. 

I once knew a woman who was fierce. I once had a mother who was fierce. She blazed fire from within and was always in danger of scorching those around her. She taught me to fight, to be brave, and to never give up. She was the captain of our ship and always managed to steer us to safety. We all looked to her. A small tribe of four aboard a ship, we knew she would never let sink. Until one day, a storm none of us saw coming almost capsized the boat. The storm raged on and we worked hard to keep the vessel afloat.  Wet, shivering, and exhausted we realized we had lost one member in the chaos.  The last three of the tribe, we tried to keep ourselves safe, while my mother lay down and curled into a corner of the deck and slept. Even after the storm had passed, we tried to wake her, but she simply shook her head and fell back asleep. 

We watched as our lost tribe member floated off into the horizon. We mourned. For months we floated aimlessly and took turns crying at the helm not knowing where to go. And my mother? She slept. She stayed pressed against the small space of the deck and slept, and each time we tried to wake her she simply shook her head and smiled.

“I’m just so tired,” she’d say.

We three watched as she stayed in the small space curled into a tight little ball. But, the waves of the ocean kept moving. When we tried to travel to shore, she would wake long enough to point us toward another land, and another.  When we asked when we she would wake, when we could travel ashore, she’d nod and smile.

“It’s fine,” she’d say.