Question of the week: Battling the blues

These past few weeks have been tough. I took my qualifying exam. I didn’t feel so good after it and pretty soon (no more than two weeks) I should get my results. Then of course there’s more things to add to the mix, but I won’t go in to them here.

I’m counting on Cafe Tacuba tomorrow night and ice skating on Friday to cheer me up.

La pregunta: How do you battle the blues?

Mexican pirates

While waiting to pick up our exams on Friday morning, the topic somehow turned to pirates.

I asked Doug, “did you celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day this year?”

He nodded his head.

“Wait, is it international or just national?”

Doug responded, “I don’t know.”

“Maybe it is international, but only in the English speaking part of the world, the UK, Australia…” I mused.

Nolan jumped in, “how do pirates speak in other languages? How would a Mexican pirate sound?”

“I think they just really roll their ‘aaarrrrghs’,” I responded logically.


Dear Family, Friends, E-Stalkers, and anyone else who reads my blog,

Thanks for the support this weekend. I really appreciated seeing your good wishes pop up in my inbox (at least when I had my wi-fi turned on). The weekend was pretty tough. I freaked out at least once. I took a walk and played Ozomatli’s “Can’t Stop” and Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine” loud on my iPod to clear my head of the self doubt. It worked too. Getting some sun and fresh air* was also good as I had been cooped in my apartment for a couple of days. I slept enough, but I think my eating habits and the stress affected my complexion (too much sugar?).

I turned in the exam a few minutes before the 11 am deadline. When I arrived, I was greeted by four of my fellow test-takers and study group. I submitted the papers and drank some champagne. We talked about weird dreams — who had time to sleep? — and agreed to meet up for a mid-day happy hour to celebrate getting through some good ol’ fashioned academic hazing.

I don’t feel too confident that I did well. I feel about two-thirds confident (there were three questions). And don’t tell me I did great, ’cause I know my work. I’m done with the crying and I think I’m okay with messing up or even failing. As Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley sings, “everyone fucks up, it’s gonna be okay.”

On the bright side, now that the exam is over and I wait a few weeks for the results I’ll have plenty of time to write about my fun and exciting life. I know you all missed me.

Now, off to sleep.



*By LA standards

Help! You know I need somebody

I’m really bad at asking for help, but I can improve, and I can ask for help.

So, help!

If you know me outside the realm of this blog, please call or text or email or IM to check in on me. I probably won’t respond, but it will be nice to know I have people behind me. And if you don’t know me outside the realm of this blog, you can still email or leave a comment. Just tell me to get back to work. Or just pray.

I pick up the exam at 9… deep breaths.

The food drop

After reading a couple of articles, I heard my dad’s Jeep pull into the driveway around 10 pm. I went out to find him and my mom unloading a box and a couple of bags. They also brought the puppy, VR. While I played with VR, my parents unloaded fruit (apples, bananas, pears, lemon, jicama), bolillo, queso, aguacate, tamales, tacos al pastor, burritos de steak picado, burritos de chorizo con huevo, brownies, instant oatmeal packets, deli-sliced turkey, Fritos, and about four tupperware containers with ready-to-eat meals like ravioli and meatballs. Everything was labeled and showed that the whole family had pitched in. Lori made the brownies. Adrian made the burritos. Mamá Toni made the rice. My madrina Chilo made the tamales. My mom made stuff too, but she didn’t label it. Oh, and there was Adrian’s little note (accio, burrito!) which was silly and sweet.

Their visit was quick, no longer than 10 minutes. I was left with a table full of food and VR’s hair all over my sweater. I took pictures of the goodies I’d eat over the next few days as I finished up my preparation and started the arduous process of taking my exam. I put everything away, and ate a brownie.

Then I got back to work. I read one article and while looking through my files for an article on determinants of Chicano students’ retention in college, I found Gándara’s article instead.

The passage below jumped out at me.

In fact, it was interesting to note that while Chicanos tended to credit their own inner strength and abilities for their educational success, Chicanas most often attributed their accomplishments to the support of their families.

Gándara, P. (1982). Passing through the eye of the needle: High-achieving Chicanas. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 4 (2), 167-179.

I’m not quite the high-achieving Chicana Gándara interviewed. I may not have that PhD, but I do have the family support (and love!). I’ve always had it. The food drop tonight was just one more thing to add to this list of the tangible things they’ve done for me. The intangibles are far greater.

Dr. Patricia Gándara’s dissertation focused on 45 Chicanos from low income backgrounds who had earned a JD, MD or PhD. Her sample was all relatively young (<40 yrs of age) and from working class families. This particular article focused on the differences between the 17 high-achieving women and their male counterparts.

La Brea & Willoughby

On the way home from the Rodrigo y Gabriela show, my friend* was pulled over by an LA County Sheriff’s Officer.

The officer asked for his license.

My friend gave it to him.

Then the officer asked for registration and proof of insurance.

My friend reached for the glove box and opened it.

The officer then said, “you don’t have a hand grenade in there, do you?”

My friend calmly said, “that’s an odd question… Did I do something wrong?”

The officer then mentioned the broken headlight and that he didn’t know if my friend had a weapon in the glove box. The officer then returned to his car with my friend’s documents.

The officer returned and said, “Mr. ___, you’re clean as a whistle.” He advised my friend to get the headlight fixed and sent us home without giving my friend a fix-it ticket.

We talked about the incident the whole way home. And laughed.

*My friend is an Indian man in his 20s. He’s also Muslim and has a full-grown beard.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Go ahead and yell at me for being here and not reading some article about Latino students retention in college, but I have to gush about Rodrigo y Gabriela’s awesome performance last night at the Henry Fonda Theater.

I discovered their music in February (I think) and immediately loved them. I kept missing their LA shows because I was traveling out of the state or country. When I heard about their two LA shows, I immediately bought tickets ignoring the fact that the date was pretty close to my exam.

The show was pretty awesome. Rodrigo y Gabriela played a long set (I think the better part of two hours) consisting of songs off their self-titled album. They took requests and admitted to being bored of setlists after touring for nearly a year. They played some new songs too, including one Rodrigo titled “Fuck the US Visa Department” as well as covers of Pink Floyd, Metallica and Van Halen songs. Gabriela shouted out her Mexico City roots by yelling “¡arriba los chilangos!” but admitted to denying her Chilanga-ness and pretening to be from Guadalajara because the people in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo don’t like Chilangos. When she yelled out “¡Viva México cabrones!” only a few folks in the audience responded, which surprised me because I’m used to a roar of affirmation from the crowd whenever musicians yell out that phrase.

Rodrigo y Gabriela have an excellent stage presence, which makes them even more attractive and likable. They dedicated the show to their hardworking crew and joked about having visa issues. They also encouraged the crowd — pretty mixed ethnically and age wise (my friend thought there were a lot of “old” people in attendance — to clap along and sing during the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

My only gripes were that the show felt a little long and I struggled to see them through most of the show because of all the tall(er) people. I hate being short. The show wasn’t long, but we waited a while for them to begin and it usually takes me a few days to adjust to the end of Daylight Savings Time.

I tried to find a clip of them performing “Ixtapa,” my favorite of their original songs, but didn’t have any luck. In the YouTube clip below they peform “Diablo Rojo.” You can get a sense of just how incredible they are from the clip, but it really doesn’t do them justice. I mean, Rodrigo y Gabriela are so much more amazing (and good looking*) live.

Continue reading “Rodrigo y Gabriela”

November spawned a monster

I really, really want to blog but there’s little on my mind these days beside quals. I even spent Halloween night writing rather than partaking in the festivities. For now, here are some notes and updates since I know you all miss me.

I celebrated on Saturday night with X, the boy I’m seeing, and his friends at a club in Santa Monica. I spent the day making my costume. I didn’t use any of my ideas mainly because (a) I’d done them before and (b) they’re too common for me. I like original costumes. My costume was kinda abstract and original, few people actually got it and when I told friends about the costume they asked, “how are you going to do that?” I had a little help from my mom in making part of the costume. My sister also helped. They rock.

Quals? Huh?
Quals, short for qualifying exam, is an exam PhD students take after completing coursework. In order to advance to dissertation stage, you must pass the exam. Exams are structure differently depending on your department and program. Mine is held over a three day weekend and consists of three ten-page (max) papers. The first questions is on a general higher education topic and tests our knowledge of the breadth of issues. The second is a critique of an article published in a peer-reviewed journal. This question focuses on our knowledge of methods and the research process. Finally, the third question focuses on your specific research area. My exam is scheduled for November 16th-19th.

My friend Arshad called me gangster. Not gangster as in chola gangster or Tony Soprano gangster, but gangster as in I’ll pass my qualifying exam despite my lack of preparation and my tendency to procrastinate. I value Arshad’s opinion, he knows me well and we’ve been in school together for years. However, I was annoyed with his support. Yes, annoyed. I wanted him to echo the voice in my head. I want him to tell me I’m not prepared, I’ve wasted too much time and when it comes time to take the exam in two weeks (exactly!) I’m gonna have a difficult time. Arshad isn’t the only person being supportive. Everyone is supportive. They all think I’ll do fine. Even my advisor, one of the faculty members who grades the exam and wrote my particular question, thinks I’ll do fine.

Día de los Muertos
I tried writing about Paco García, the first person I know to die when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Paco was probably in his mid to late 50s when he died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a prominent member of my church as both a co-director of the Spanish-language choir and artist for the weekly bulletin. Everyone loved Paco and his wife, Alba.

When he passed away, I remember being told not to wear black for his funeral Mass. Instead, I was supposed to wear bright colors. My mom may have worn a red dress. I was a little puzzled by this. On television, people wore black for funerals, so why did we look like we were going to Easter Sunday Mass?

If I had a photo of Paco, I’d add it to my mini-altar. After all, it was the death of Paco, a Cuban immigrant and devout Catholic, that helped me to see death as something more than tragic. It prepared me pretty well when I started to learn about Mexican traditions my family didn’t practice, such Día de los Muertos.

Something Wicked This Way Comes
I loved last night’s episode of Ugly Betty. Yeah, I know I need to study, but I have to take a break. Below are some of my favorite quotes:

Ignacio: You need to be with your family and food.

Christina: He’s your donut.
Betty: Yes, he’s delicious and I can’t tell anyone.

Christina: But you’ve got to take that donut and you’ve got to bite it. Dunk it in your coffee and get it hot and warm and wet…

Wilhelmina: What do we want?
Mark: Integrated chocolates!
Wilhelmina: When do we want them?
Mark: Now!

Gio: Oh yeah! Egg salad on white, sexy!

Betty: You’re about to hear a cough. That’s me saying hello.
Henry: You’re about to hear a sneeze. That’s me saying hello.
Gio: You’re about to hear gagging. That’s me gagging.

Mark: She doesn’t give dinner breaks. Wilhelmina treats all white people like slaves, something about payback.

Amanda: Not your type? It’s like he ate your type.

Hilda: I’m romantic, not crazy.