Blog Day

There are a lot of good things about August 31, but this year marks the first Blog Day. I’m supposed to introduce you to 5 bloggers who are not in the United States.

I’ll write something about them and their blogs soon enough but it’s been a busy day for me.

For now, here’s my list:

  • Tank, my favorite Brit
  • Geri, from Canada
  • Dee , an American black man in Sweden
  • Julio , a Xicano in Sweden
  • Davo, a Mexican in Australia

I’ll edit this later with real introductions about this people. I thought la Poor Little Tumbleweed might count, but she’s a Chicana living in Puerto Rico and that might be stretching the international tone of Blog day.

Novel Fiction

tattooed soldier I’ve been reading the same short novel for a few months this summer. I’m not bored by it, but for some reason I keep putting it down.

I packed Héctor Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier in my backpack along with my bathing suit, shorts and tshirts for camping. I figured when the 20+ family members at the Headquarters campsite in Kernville got on my nerves, I’d retreat to some semi-quiet area of the campsite or river to read more about Antonio and Longoria, the two main characters in Tobar’s tale of revenge.

I didn’t read as much as I thought I would partly because the Kernville heat was too unbearable to do anything else than just swim in the river. Oso thinks the river is cold, but I don’t think it even compares with that of the Colorado River which is truly freezing. When I was a kid I’d spend all day in the river. I’d wake up in the morning and put my swimsuit on before breakfast and wouldn’t take it off ’til the sun was going down. Once in my cozy sleeping bag, I could still feel the current of the Kern pulling me downstream as I tried to forget the ghost stories the other kids would tell and ignore the mosquito bites.

Anyway, on Saturday afternoon after lunch I took some time to read. Oscar, my parent’s compadre, asked me, “What are you reading?”

I showed him the book and added a bit of information I thought might interest him. “It’s by a writer from Guatemala.”

“Oh really?” Oscar asked with growing interest. I gave the book to him and he flipped through it and settled on the same passage I was reading. “You know, I remember the guys coming through yelling ‘¡zapaaaaaaaatos!’ asking who needed their shoes fixed,” he mentioned in reference to the man who fixed shoes.

Oscar gave the book back to me and I kept on reading about Antonio and his wife Elena who had moved from the capital to a small town in the provinces, San Cristóbal for safety from the death squads who disappeared many “subversive” students and others who spoke out against the government.

maritza & oscar The next morning I put the book down as we cleaned up the campsite. Oscar asked me again about the book, “So, what’s it about?”

I began to explain to him. Well, the book is about a man, Antonio, from Guatemala who flees on the same day he finds his wife and 2-year old son dead in their home. Right before leaving a neighbor points out one of the assassins, a soldier in the elite Jaguar Battalion of the Guatemalan army distinguished by a tattoo of a jaguar on his forearm. Many years later, Antonio encounters the soldier in MacArthur park in Los Angeles and plans his revenge.

Oscar’s wife and my madrina, Maritza, was now listening. Oscar began to talk about how the death and destruction of the “judiciales” was very real. He told me, “that’s the reason Martiza is here.” Maritza nodded her head and told me that even though she wasn’t involved in anything just being a student at the Universidad de San Carlos was dangerous enough. They recounted some of the atrocities and stories they had heard from friends in Guatemala and other Guatemaltecos they met in LA.

I’ve known Oscar and Maritza for 15 years and have never once heard any of these stories. I never even thought to ask. I didn’t know that Maritza’s mom insisted that she leave immediately, only with the clothes on her back. She left Guatemala with her older brother who had gone to visit his family.

A book that is just a fictional novel with well-developed characters and suspenseful plots is just that, fiction. To Oscar and Maritza it was reality.

La Celosa

I went to a concert about 10 days ago with HP. It was the first concert he had attended in his life and it was my eighth (or ninth?) of the summer. I made him dress catrín and I wore a dress. I don’t usually dress nice for concerts, but this wasn’t Café Tacuba, it was Al Green. Clean clothes, brushed teeth, and combed hair were a requirement.

He arrived at my apartment late in the afternoon, just a few minutes after I had returned from work. We changed out of jeans and tshirts. He ironed his button down shirt and I put on a white summer dress. We looked good together, like a real couple out for a night of romantic soul music rather than two good friends who just pretend to date to trick their online friends.

Once we arrived at the Greek, Alfonso parked and we walked down the hill that had become a giant parking lot. Once we were around other concert goers I noticed something.

It made me jealous.

On the way to and from the concert, girls started noticing Alfonso. They looked different than me. Their necklines were lower and the heels on their shoes were taller and thinner. I would never be able to walk in such shoes thanks to my clumsiness. These women took much more time to prepare for the concert. They did more to their hair than just run a brush through it. They reminded me of my sister in some ways. They were young women who probably would have looked just as beautiful without a layer or two of makeup.

The girls kept looking at Alfonso. I don’t think he even noticed until I mentioned it, but I knew because I know their gazes. I’m an expert by now at sneaking glances at intriguing men. I usually try to avoid the guys who are with a girl, since it’s just plain tacky to check out a guy who is taken. However, the women checking out Alfonso that night didn’t seem too care.

Their gazes lingered too long and they seemed to ignore the fact that he was walking right next to a girl who obviously wasn’t his sister.

I felt like grabbing Alfonso’s hand as if he was my boyfriend and giving those girls a “look” back. You know, the kind that says, “don’t you have the decency to not check out a guy who is out with his girlfriend?”

El Río Kern

Suck it in, kid I have a lot more to say about the time I spent camping, but for now I can say that I miss being around of one of the cutest kids ever, my nephew Anthony. I’ll see him next Saturday when my cousin Tony and his wife Ingrid show up to my birthday party and bring Anthony.

I’ll be back with more thoughts but for now I’ll just post something I wrote last night:

Camping isn’t like I remember it when I was a kid.

I’m not as daring and willing to raft down unknown parts of the river. I’m more cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of slippery rocks in the river and I’ll probably slip. The desert feels hotter. The nights feel colder. There seem to be less stars lighting up the sky. I have no desire to eat marshmallows or make s’mores.

People have their portable DVD players and I’m on my laptop.

I don’t have to share my tent with 5, 6, or 7 other people. It’s just me, but that’s partially because I was supposed to share it with the roommate and she decided not to come at the last minute because she got sick.

Mild Obsession with 31

These are a few of my favorite things... I think I should explain my affinity for the number 31. Since I’ve been doing weird things like walking around the entire Dodger Stadium searching for the non-existent — I found this out afterward, of course — parking lot 31. I have a growing set on Flickr showing my mild obsession with this number and I sometimes get questions.

The whole 31 thing is quite simple. In high school, I was boy crazy. Of course, I’ve grown out of that, but back then I literally had a dozen crushes all the time. There was usually one guy I really liked and all the others were just guys I thought were cute. I often made this fact known.

I’d tell my friends, “Vinny is so cute!” and then the next day it was all about Tony.

My friends started to call me 31 Flavors and I liked it. I had always had a connection to the number because it was the day I was born and therefore was my favorite number. I figure if people associate 31 with me they really can’t forget my birthday and that means gifts! Heh.

My crushes came to be known as “flavors” and they were numbered. The “number one flavor” usually kept his spot for months at a time, but other flavors would make their way up and down the list. Honestly, I don’t think there were ever 31 guys I had a crush on at any point during high school (or college or grad school for that matter), but I’ve always had more than one crush.

But I’m not a player… I just crush a lot.

Shhh! We’re Filming!

I know the cute guy at Hollywood Video looked at me funny when he saw the DVD in my hand. I wanted to explain myself and my taste in movies. In my head, I played out a quick conversation.

Cute Guy: So you like Katie Holmes?
Me: Oh no, I just picked First Daughter because I like watching movies that were filmed at UCLA.
CG: [weird look] Right.
Me: No really. I’m not much of a fan of Katie Holmes or predictable romantic comedies. Plus, this is “free” with the MVP pass.

Ominous Kerckhoff Hall

In my imaginary conversation, I wasn’t being completely honest. I enjoy both cheesy romantic comedies and watching movies filmed at UCLA. I like to see how the set crew has transformed a very familiar place to look like a fictional or actual university (such as Harvard). I can often recall being inconvenienced by yet another filming on campus, especially if the film was shot within the last seven years.

First Daughter was filmed during the summer when there are less students on campus. I remember trying to walk from parking structure 4 across Bruin Walk to Kerckhoff Hall and being told by members of the film crew that I had to go around. Well, they didn’t have to tell me because after 5 years of being at UCLA (this was in 2003), I knew that you just have to be patient with the Hollywood crowd. I eventually got back to work at Kerckhoff, but during the breaks, I’d go back out to the front steps of the building to watch Forest Whitaker direct lanky Ms. Holmes and “President” Michael Keaton.

I watched the movie when I got home and was amused to see both the interior and exterior of Kerckhoff, a building where I’ve spent a lot of time in the last eight years (for work, student government and MEChA). Once again, I saw the door to the GSA office on screen. Coincidentally, last week I tried to get into the same office and was semi-blocked by film equipment and some crew members. My friend asked and found out that they were using the interior and exterior of Kerckhoff for the CBS series Cold Case.

Below is my favorite story to tell about a filming on campus. If you’ve seen Old School, you’ll know exactly what scene I’m referring to and find some inaccuracies I only learned of after watching the film.

old school

Keep your pants on
Written 02.15.02 (with some recent minor edits)

Beep, beep, beep. Who called me? I checked the number on my phone, which told me only that someone called from on campus. As soon as I got out of my boring service-learning seminar I checked the message.

“Um, Cindy, its Eligio. I was just calling to ask if you could pick something up that I left at the GRO . I need it, but won’t be going back over there. It’s on the desk, you can’t miss it. I’ll call you later.”

I walked toward the other end of campus where my office is located. The campus was unusually quiet for a Thursday evening. It was only 7 but no one seemed to be around. Maybe they were all getting ready for their V-day plans. My Valentine was 400 miles away, but I had plans to go to dinner with some friends.

I met Chispa where she works on the first floor of Kerckhoff and asked her to accompany me to third floor so I could deliver some Monster’s Inc. Valentine cards to my co-workers and fellow council members.

We exited the elevator (we’re lazy, I know) to a hallway crammed with the film crew’s equipment. I’m used to filming on campus. My campus has been in everything from Scream 2 to Gilmore Girls (that wasn’t Harvard). Most of the time, the filming isn’t so close and they’re outdoors.

Lately, however, they’ve been unusually close. In January I sat at my computer at work and looked out onto an argument between a couple at the fictional Finchley College on Crossing Jordan. The film crew set up lights in the office, and the extras chilled on the couch. It didn’t bug much.

Yesterday was worse though. I entered my office and flipped the switch to find something I never expected. Directly opposite the door I looked out on the window and roof/makeshif balcony overlooking the Kerckhoff Patio. My friends and I climb out on the roof all the time when the offices feel cramped and we need fresh air or when someone wants to smoke.

Out on the two-foot high brick wall surrounding the roof stood 5 men of varying heights with their pants around their ankles. They faced the patio with boxes covering their crotches. Long shirts covered their butts, so all we saw were hairy legs.

Chispa and I picked up the “wallet” Eligio forgot in the office, a single long-stemmed rose on my iMac’s keyboard. We mouthed an awkward ‘sorry’ to the crew guys and pants-less actors for disturbing them with the light, and proceeded to go find an ATM to get cash for dinner.

I doubt I’ll ever find guys with their pants down again on the roof — at least I hope not — but I shouldn’t be too surpried since my campus often used by the nearby studios for movie and television filmings.


Royce Hall, I

I know UCLA has been used in several other print ads, commercials, television shows and films, but these are all I could think of right now. Seeing Stars has more info on the UCLA-Hollywood connection.



Let’s Stay Together

I figure I should number these things because I end up making similar lists pretty frequently.

  • It’s a beautiful, sunny day and I can’t bring myself to do anything productive like playing softball at the park, going swimming at my madrina’s house or spending some money I don’t have.
  • Nebur has a short series on encountering violence way back when he was a high school senior. No, that wasn’t a crack at his age. Well, maybe it was. Anyway, the series really is short, nothing like Oso’s “Pitching outside the strikezone” series that’s gone on forever. He’s a great storyteller and I encourage you to read Hometown Violence part 1 and part 2.
  • Let's, let's stay together... I went to another concert last night. This time, it was Al Green, the Four Tops, and Brenton Woods (who we missed because we were still having dinner). It was kinda cool to see the kind of mix of LA I’m used to only seeing at Dodger games. The crowd was pretty diverse in age, race, and probably class leveles too. I think this is the eighth concert of the summer and I still have at least 3 more to check out. Oh yeah, my non-date, HP, behaved himself. Hehe.
  • I was in our grad student lounge a few days ago and checked out the rack they have with a bunch of brochures about things to do in and around LA. I know you’ve seen them in hotel lobbies. Anyway, I noticed one about rafting in the Kern River and it made me really happy. I can’t wait to go camping this weekend. It’s been years since I’ve slept in a tent and chilled in the river all day long.
  • El huehuetl (drum) I don’t really wanna go back to school. I don’t start classes for another six weeks, but I know once classes start I’m going to go back to being stressed all the time. I just realized that I have class on Thursday night which conflicts with danza. I really don’t want to miss out on danza for ten weeks straight. I can’t really articulate how much I’ve enjoyed ensayo for the last two months or so. My week just doesn’t feel complete without danza. When I miss it, something feels wrong and there are times when I feel I need to go. Yeah, it’s like that.
  • 31 Flavors at Kerckhoff Coffee House Guess what’s coming up? Eh, I’ll just tell you. I’m having a birthday party in two weeks. Wanna come? If you’re out of LA, it’s a perfect weekend to come down considering it’s a holiday weekend. If you’re here, you can make a trip out to blue house on the street that shares it’s name with a coffee brand and experience a world famous M family party.
  • I hadn’t mentioned it before because I didn’t want to seem even more nerdy, but if Derek can admit it, so can I. I’m addicted to Sudoku.
  • El ex-convento I was thinking earlier this week that I was in Mexico for a long time. At this time last year, I was back in Salamanca getting caught in storms with my tía Gaby (she’s more like a cousin, really). I spent a few really good days with my uncles on the rancho. You know what I conveniently forgot about my trip? The fact that I kept getting minor injuries and lots of mosquito bites. It’s easy to forget that stuff ’cause the pain goes away, I don’t really have any pictures of that stuff, and all the good was so much easier to remember.

That’s it for now.

Non-Date with the Untouchable Crush

Atardecer en Venice It was like a date. A boy and a girl eating dinner at a nice Italian spot near the Marina. They talk about work, his move to Boston, her siblings, getting hit on by gay guys, and other random things that come up. They laugh over silly things and give each other “looks” when their neighbors who arrived after them get their pasta dinners before they do.

“I’m going to miss you,” she says softly while they wait for their dinner.

“I’ll miss you too,” he replies. “But I’ll be back in December.”

“I know.”

She gets cold, so he suggests they switch seats so she can be near the heat lamp which makes him hot. Later, she’s still cold and he offers his coat. She gladly takes it, slips it on over her blue Puma hoodie and feels more comfortable. They barely eat any of the pasta on their huge plates. The waitress asks if they want dessert. She says no at first, but he convinces her that the mango ice cream is heaven. A few minutes later, the waitress comes out with their mango sorbet. They share and in between spoonfuls of the orange goodness that is mango sorbet, they talk some more. She has issues eating, and he has issues shopping.

It’s always like that when they’re together. They can talk for hours about anything and not feel bored. When they run out of words, they just look at each other quizzically.

They finish their dessert, pay for their bill head back to her car. A few steps into their walk, he asks, “What time are you going to meet up with your friends?”

“Not until later.”

“Lets go to the beach.”

“Okay.” She doesn’t want to leave him just yet for when she does, it will be for a few months rather than hours or days.

They stop by her car a few blocks away and leave their leftovers in the back seat. They begin their stroll down a dark pathway between buildings.

At the beach they trudge through the sand, look up at the gorgeous sky full of stars. They note that there are more out than usual in the city. Perhaps they came out for her birthday or to say farewell to him.

“Is that Mars?” he asks pointing to a bright orb in the velvety sky. “It’s supposed to be closer to the earth than it’s been in 60,000 years.”

They get closer to the water, avoiding pits some children dug out earlier in the day. The waves crash over and over again. No one is around, just the two of them.

“Why does it look like the foam on the water is glowing?” she asks.

“I have no idea. It looks like there’s a giant black light on the water.”

“I know.”

They continue walking along on the beach. She thinks, ‘this is so odd. It’s like if we were on a date, strolling along the beach at night.’ She wants to cuddle close to him, it’s still a little too cold. She has been spoiled all her life by mild California weather. She struggles to stay a safe distance away and walks a step ahead of him.

“What’s on the pier?” she asks.

“I don’t know, let’s go check,” he replies.

They head over to the pier. His nose is stuffed, as he’s a bit sick. The smell of fish hits her quick, but he doesn’t notice it. They seem out of place on the pier. Everyone around them is fishing. There are still some fish guts at the sinks on the pier. Ew. They find an empty spot at the circular end of the pier.

They notice glowing spots in the water and wonder what’s going on. He says he’s really glad that she’s there with him. “If you weren’t here, I’d think I was having a flashback from an acid trip or something.”

He’s close to her. She feels awkward in this pseudo romantic moment. She wants to kiss his lips and feel his long, thick eyelashes flutter next to her cheek. She wants him, but knows she can’t have him.

They leave the pier, go back to her car, get back on the freeway and return to where he left his car on campus. She tries not to think of the fact that this will be the last time she sees him for a few months. She tries to keep her mouth shut so she doesn’t say what’s on her mind. She’s only half successful.

She drops him off at the familiar spot where her day ends and begins on campus, lot 4, level p2. She’s done this half a dozen times before, but you can tell it’s different this time.

“This is starting to get dramatic,” he says before he gets out of her car. “This is going to be the last time I’ll be on campus for a long time.”

“I know,” she says. “But you’ll be back.”

The car stops, he gets out with his leftovers and puts it in the back seat of his mom’s SUV. He turns back and looks in her car, “See you later, Cindy.”

“See you later, _____. Have a safe trip.”

And with that they left each other.

Postscript: Written August 30, 2003 and kept under lock and key at the old blog since then. I ran into this friend yesterday for the first time in a few months. I couldn’t stop smiling. I’m no longer hooked on him like I was back then. Our friendship has evolved, but it’s still the kind where we can spend hours together just smoking hookah, watching baseball, or talking nonsense about some abstract theory pretending we’re smart grad students. It’s all good.

We are not like them… or are we?

I have a whole lot of thoughts about this article in the Los Angeles Times on Latinos who work alongside people like the Minutemen. (If you check this out later in the week, you might need to register, but you could also just use Bug Me Not.

The final quote is, “We are not like them.”

This is somewhat true. I was born here and because of that I’m automatically a citizen. I’ve never worried about getting a job or being able to afford school because I was ineligible for financial aid or because I was charged higher fees/tuition because of my status as an undocumented student. I’m not completely terrified when I cross the border into Mexico or wait in the long ass line on my way back into the US because I’m afraid they won’t let me back in or detain me.

I do have a ton of privilege, but I also have family who are not as privileged. My parents were not always citizens. They’ve been harassed at the border and called wetbacks. To try to divide myself from my friends and other people in my community who do look like me and share a culture and a lot of experiences is petty.

Well, I know there are some people I’m different from: those who are against undocumented immigration.