This used to be my playground

Jorge, my neighbor in Hacienda Heights, posted the news on Facebook last June. He didn’t have any news about the school board vote. Adrian confirmed the news a few days later on our way to pick up some burgers.

“I saw Mr. S and he told me.”

Mr. S, Adrian’s sixth grade teacher, confirmed what I’d initially taken for a rumor.

Continue reading “This used to be my playground”

Lejos de ti

For the past six weeks, I’ve been obsessed with Carla Morrison’s “Compartir” thanks to NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast.

The night before Thanksgiving, I couldn’t sleep. I listened to Alt.Latino once again. This was the second show in a few weeks that the hosts had mentioned Morrison and played her music. Her previous songs hadn’t struck me like “Compartir.” I immediately got out of bed and downloaded the album, Mientras Tu Dormías.

For the next few days, I listened to “Compartir” at least five times a day and translated the lyrics so I could share the song with Sean. She was singing to me. She was singing about our bicoastal relationship.


I left New York just a few hours ago. Sean rented a ZipCar and drove me out to JFK as usual. We kissed, hugged and he wished me a safe trip. This goodbye was different, as we both know that in just a short week, Sean will be at JFK boarding a flight for LAX himself. He won’t be coming back to NY on Sunday night as usual and our bicoastal relationship will be over.

We’ll finally be together in the same time zone, same city… just a few miles away from each other.


No es tan fácil estar tan lejos de ti

That part of “Compartir” will no longer apply, but the rest will still be perfect.


By the end of the fireworks show, I was crying. They weren’t big tears. I don’t think Alan, Danny or Lori even noticed. During the show, they were fixated on the sky like everyone else on Main Street. Afterward, we rushed through Main Street trying to beat the throngs exiting the park.

No one asked why I was wiping away tears. I’m still not sure how I can explain it. There’s the easy answer: I’m a sucker for Disney music and classics like “When You Wish Upon a Star” backed by fireworks get to me, just like the Disney Imagineers intended. That’s part of it, of course, but the music and show were just a backdrop to my own feelings about where I’m at in my life right now.

I’m far from finishing graduate school. Last year, I dropped out of a boot camp to work on my dissertation proposal before the first meeting. That set the tone for the academic year. I didn’t make any progress on my proposal, avoided meeting with my advisor and only stepped into the Moore Hall, home of the education department, to visit friends. I skipped the graduation ceremony as I didn’t want to be reminded that I was so off track. I’m unsure of what this next year brings. I’d like to take a year off, but this depends on my advisor’s approval.

Three years ago, a similar situation had me depressed and miserable. This time around, it hardly bothers me. What little anxiety I feel about school is offset by the great feelings I get when I think about others areas of my life. I’m happy and healthier than I’ve been in my adult life. I know I can count on my family, boyfriend and close friends for support or just to lend an ear.

I’m not sure what comes next. I’m okay with that.

El Susto

Each day I describe the accident a few times to family, friends, co-workers, insurance, my doctor, etc.

They ask, “What happened?”

I’ll describe the little I saw. I leave out the sounds (a deafening crash, the popping of airbags, Los Lobos on the CD player, my cell phone ringing, sirens) and smell (something burnt).

“Are you okay?” they’ll asked with genuine concern.

“Yeah,” I’ll say and then sigh. I show them the the marks on my chest and forearms from the seat belt and airbag, respectively. Those scars and bruises are the only sign I was in an accident.

They’ll respond with something like, “well, the important thing is that you’re safe. Your car can be replaced, but you can’t.”

I look okay, but don’t feel that way.

The susto lingers.

Fotos y recuerdos

The Friday after Jose’s untimely death some friends gathered to create a collage of photos to display during the services.

A half dozen women cropped and trimmed photos and laid them out on a large poster board. The two guys stood back awkwardly. One suggested outlining the black letters of Jose’s name in silver. I might have cracked a Raiders joke. I don’t remember.

The collage making was bittersweet. We laughed a little, nobody cried. Five days after we’d received the news, we had used up all our tears. When the jokes and small talk subsided we were left with silence, our own thoughts, and dozens of photos of our always smiling friend.

Jose Luis Vasquez passed away on July 1, 2007.

π day

Dear José,

Happy 26th birthday! It’s your day, π day, the perfect birthday for a man destined to teach mathematics.

I miss you, man.

It’s been over eight months since we lost you. Of course, that initial pain we all felt on July 1st — that extreme shock and sadness — has faded.

I still think about you all the time. It’s hard not to considering your picture sits atop my bookshelf on my mini-altar. You’re there next to Cindy Rabuy and Grandpa and Grandma.

Most days, I feel okay. But there are some days when that initial pain comes back. It catches me off guard like a rough wave that leaves my eyes irritated and red from the saltwater.

That’s what happened in September. I was looking through some photos from Ralph’s Halloween 2006 party. I don’t look at those pictures much. They remind me of loss and severed relationships.

I came across this photo:

I miss that smile

It took my breath away to see you and Jonathan grinning like fools. I have no clue why you guys are smiling so broadly. It doesn’t matter. It was just good to see that smile. I miss that smile and your positive energy.

I know I’m not the only one.


Question of the week: Swoon

I currently do not have a crush.

Anyone who has known me for more than a minute knows this is weird. Chispa noted after I posted my 100 facts that in the nearly 10 years we’ve known each other, she’s never known me not to have a crush. Well, that was because most of the time we’ve known in each other, I was actually meeting lots of eligible young men. These days, most of the guys I interact with are ethically off-limits (married fellow grad students, undergrads in the program I work with). I just don’t get out that much.

I love crushes. Well, not the aspects that suck. You know, getting nervous around him and trying to analyze all his mixed signals (which you later learned weren’t mixed, but you just made things more complicated).

I love the beginning of the crush. I miss realizing that I like him and maybe he likes me too. That feeling makes me giddy. I’ve even been known to swoon, just ask anyone who was around late last summer when I met my last crush. It’s a nice feeling and I miss it. I think I might even be addicted to that feeling (which makes a lot of sense if you listen to Radiolab’s This is Your Brain On Love episode from last August).

I think I got addicted to it after my first crush. I was in first grade. My crush, Juan, was in second grade. Yes, he was Mexican and short. No, he did not have a goatee. I don’t know any seven year old who can grown facial hair. I liked Juan enough to get self-conscious about my appearance. The bad aspects of crushes start early on! I worried that he wouldn’t like me because my mom made me wear my hair in two trenzas (braids). I thought the trenzas made me look like a baby — nevermind that at 6 years old I was still a baby.

I don’t remember why I stopped liking Juan, but 20 years later, I’m going to blame the demise of my crush on my older brother. Danny and Juan became really good friends. (In fact, they’re still good friends after 20+ years.) At six, I understood that siblings’ friends were off-limits, or at the very least weird. Naturally, I stopped liking Juan. Instead, I became friends with Juan and when I was 14 I asked him to be one of the chambelanes in my quinceañera. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Juan, but he’s since had a child and gotten married.

La Pregunta: Do you remember your first crush? Tell me about him/her.

State of affairs

You know what’s ironic?

A few weeks ago, I was trying to compose a text message to a friend about feeling rejected. When I wrote rejected using the T9 predictive text, the first word to come up was selected.

2007 has definitely not been my year for being selected. Instead, I keep getting rejected. I’ve taken lots of L’s (losses) this year. Take a look:

  1. January: submitted conference proposal, it was rejected (repeat two more times in August and November!).
  2. April: boyfriend breaks up with me. I try to plead my case a few weeks later in May. He still says it’s best if we’re not together.
  3. May: apply for the legislative liaison position with the Graduate Students Association. Get passed up for someone with more experience. Ah, politics.
  4. November: X, the guy I’d been dating for a couple months, gets bored/disinterested/whatever with me and we stop dating.
  5. November: take qualifying exam. Doesn’t go so well. Have to retake one of three questions.

I’m hopeful 2008 will be better and that I’ll find “someone who cares about the world as much as I do” or just get some serious work done toward graduating.

A little gift: State of Affairs by Los Abandoned [right click, save as]… sigh. They broke up too.

Nails and bullets

The truth is, you are a phenomenal person and I’m just average.

Those words still make me smile. They still take my breath away even though the man who said them is hardly a part of my life and the pain I felt after our break up has long since faded. It was horrible. I moped. I cried. I got angry. I felt lonely. I was distracted at work and when driving. I even got in a car accident. I didn’t foresee how I could go from feeling shattered to feeling okay. I made it through. I forgave and moved on.

Since then, I’ve felt that pain again… rather recently in fact.

Thinking about that pain, breakups and moving on reminded me of a line from Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo. When I first read the novel four years ago, I jotted down my favorite quotes. I searched for that list of quotes because I wanted these words:

Like they say, one nail drives out another… Yes, and the second bullet dulls the pain of the first.

As violent and pessimistic as these words seem, I still find them oddly reassuring.

13 for Friday the 13th

9 a.m.
St. Lucy’s Church in City Terrace for Jose’s funeral Mass. The strange yet pleasant incense smell hits me as I dipped my finger on the sponge soaked with holy water and make the sign of the cross. A few minutes later, the same balding priest enters to begin the procession of pall bearers, casket and family. As the priest says the prayers, few people respond, a sign that there are lots of non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics (or simply people who don’t know the prayers in Spanish) in the church. The Mass is simple and somber. There are few tears, I think most were shed the night before at the velorio.

9:50 a.m.
Gabriel, Ralph and I decide to leave the church parking lot before the procession to Resurrection Cemetery in Monterey Park. I tell Ralph, I know how to get there. Mando and my madrina Bertha are buried there. We take the 10 east to the 710 south to the 60 east and exit Findlay. We make a left at Markland, where we saw a horse-drawn carriage just waiting. Soon, we arrive at Resurrection. I tell the guys, I think we should just drive around until we find somewhere that looks like it’s about to be the location for a burial. A few minutes later we find the right location. Ralph double checks the flower arrangements. He sees one with blue and yellow flowers dedicated to a beloved Bruin. We wait a while in the shade. Soon other friends arrive, they all ditched (or were ditched) by the procession.

10:30 a.m.
The casket and procession arrives. The priest begins his prayer at the grave site. It’s short and sweet. The sun beats down on us and I tell Chonsy to grab the umbrella from my trunk after taking a cue from some of the other mourners. The priest says a short prayer and gives the final blessing. The guy from the mortuary tells the pall bearers to put their white gloves on the casket and then asks them to give flowers to everyone so they can place them on the casket as well. I get a blue rose. It’s lovely. When I say goodbye, I don’t know if I should say a prayer or tell Jose how much I’ll miss him. I just pray, it’s easier.

After this, an older woman begins a rosary. In between each misterio, we sing a verse of “Pescador de Hombres”. I love the song, but she doesn’t sing it as beautiful as my father and the choir back at St. John Vianney. I try to sing too, but I forget the words. It’s a good thing; without fail, the song makes me cry.

11:50 a.m.
All the friends, fellow UCLA/MEChA alumni say goodbye to each other. We’re the only one’s still hanging around at Resurrection. The family already left to the reception and we’re still trying to figure out the next thing to do. Ralph, Gabriel, Jake, Chonsy and I make plans to go a Hawaiian restaurant Jake recommends.

11:55 p.m.
Lunch at Shakas in Monterey Park. We barely beat the lunch crowd. The guys all have giant snow cones to go along with their loco mocos and teriyaki chicken. We discuss baseball, particularly the Seattle Mariners of the mid to late 1990s. I hold my own in the conversation. I think, we must look odd. We’re all dressed in black.

1:30 p.m.
I got conned in to driving to the Kwik-E-Mart in Burbank. Ralph promised me a Squishee. On the way there, he suggests going to see a movie after the Kwik-E-Mart. Harry Potter? I ask hopefully. Ralph and Gabriel actually agree.

1:45 p.m.
We arrive at the Burbank Kwik-E-Mart. The line is shorter than I expected, but we still have to wait a little while. It’s also not as hot as I expected, but it’s still hot. We take pictures with Comic Book Guy and Marge. Whoever thought that going to a gussied up Simpsons style 7-11 would be exciting? Ralph keeps his promise of buying me a slushee in a collectible pink Lisa cup. I buy a couple of bobbleheads and cookies shaped like Simpsons characters. Ralph buys a half-dozen donuts.

We head over to the AMC movie theater and arrive just in time to buy our tickets for the 3 p.m. Harry Potter showing.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is over. On the escalator down, the guys say they liked it and I clear up some of their questions. I go into an explanation of why I thought the book was much better than the movie, even if I did enjoy the movie. While looking for a place to get some water, the guys suggest grabbing a beer. I can’t argue and we end up at Elephant Bar’s happy hour across the street from the parking structure. I have a margarita. The guys have beer.

Gabriel offers to pay, he just got a promotion. I don’t mind at all. I’ve been driving him around all day. He should be paying for my drink. We leave the Elephant Bar, which has quickly gone from being busy to being downright hectic. Ralph guides us back to East L.A. without having to get on the crappy 5 freeway.

7:15 p.m.
Back in City Terrace, we unwind at Ralph’s apartment. I’m hungry again. I finally grab one of the pink sprinkled donuts we bought at the Kwik-E-Mart. It’s good, but it’s a little too sweet. The Dodgers game is on TV, but Ralph doesn’t have cable. Boo. Gabriel leaves to head back to the Coachella Valley. I check my email for the first time that day and while doing so Ralph invites me to dinner in Van Nuys at Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler, Texas Bar-B-Que.

8 p.m.
Dinner at “the Hog” with David, his father and Ralph. David and Ralph do the ordering. Two orders of beef brisket, one order of beef ribs, and sides of bread and french fries. The food is good and so is the conversation.

9:30 p.m.
Traffic on the 101 sucks, but at least I don’t have to drive this time. I tell Ralph that today, Friday July 13th, was an almost perfect day. Well, if we don’t consider the fact that it started with Jose’s funeral. You know, I tell him, the only reason you, me and Gabriel were away from work today was because of Jose’s funeral. This great day would have never happened if… well, you know. His death brought together a bunch of people who don’t see each other enough as we’re all scattered around California doing our own thing. Suddenly, the great day doesn’t feel so great anymore. I feel exhausted.