The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Accepting the 405 Freeway

I was born in Anaheim, California in 1990. When I was two years old, I moved to Laguna Niguel, California where I lived until I came to Loyola Marymount University. Upon moving to Los Angeles, I learned a great deal from those who are actually from Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Although Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, there is one thing that everyone feels the same about—the 405 freeway.

Over time the 405 freeway has developed a terrible reputation among Los Angeles residents. Many people refer to the freeway as a “zoo”, or a “parking lot”. I once even heard someone refer to the highway as a “deathtrap”. In actuality, between the hours of 7:00am-10:00am and 2:00pm-7:00pm, the freeway resembles something close to a lot full of parked cars. Most people living near or regularly using the highway are aware that the conditions will be the same each day, (some worst than others) yet they still complain about the freeway. Instead of complaining about the highway’s terrible crowdedness, one must take a more proactive approach.

I use the 405 freeway on a weekly basis. Each time I know I will have to be on the highway for any period of time or and length of distance, I prepare. In order to prepare myself for the freeway I mentally note that I should expect the worst. Automatically I am prepped for the worst traffic; therefore it isn’t as bad when I actually enter onto the highway. In addition to mental preparation I also prepare myself with my iPod fully charged, and my list of calls to make during my trip. It is amazing the things I can get done! If the residents of Los Angeles learn to embrace the freeway instead of completely despising it, a lot of stress could potentially be relieved.

People who regularly use the 405 freeway must learn that the freeway will remain the same. On late nights, it is more likely that the freeway will be shut down to a single lane due to construction. Perhaps traveling at 5:00pm could be the most productive time on the 405. The stop and go traffic is at it’s heaviest during this hour. In the end the 405 is what it is, crowded, bumpy, and irritating. If you prepare and accept, the freeway could be a much happier place!

-Brittnee Wadlington

The Married Life

Unfortunately, marriage has been blacklisted by much of society because this entity has highlighted the negative and concealed the positive. Marriage is such a beautiful thing that should be respected and held to standards of dedication and long-term commitment because it is based off of love, not lust, and love is everlasting. I have been married for a bit over 3 years now to a great man named Ernest. I was married at 18 and he was 21. As does any couple, we go through our rough terrains but those trials just make our relationship and friendship stronger in endurance, compassion, understanding, appreciation, and love for one another. I believe that my husband and I are rare but never would I agree to marriage being a foreign and unattainable thing for the young.

Ernest and I started dating a year after we knew each other as good friends. During the friendship period I got to know him for the person he is and not the person who has modified himself to impress me. We were dating for roughly 3½ years before we got married and to this day I feel like I married my best friend.

Marriage is a union between two people based on agape love: love that is everlasting, merciful, and enduring. Personally, I feel that compatibility is one of several key factors to marriage as well as maturity. It’s really a beautiful thing when the two people are compatible. Before I go further, this is not about me saying that everyone should just make a spur of the moment choice to marry whomever you are dating at the moment. That would just make matters worse. Getting to know someone takes time, getting to know yourself and what you are looking for may take even longer. As stated earlier, marriage is a long-term commitment. Therefore, it should never be rushed. With that said, commonality, too, is very important in marriage. Ernest and I share many of the same goals, mentalities, philosophies of life and humanity, religion, likes and dislikes. This was a great foundation for us because we are now able to enjoy each other’s company and conversation without needing to argue about things like where or what to eat because we both like to eat a variety of foods, or nag each other about why don’t you see things like this or why is it so hard for you to…blah, blah, blah. We are definitely not the same person so we do have some arguments but our commonalities and love for one another override any strife we have.

God views marriage as honorable and a strong bond that none but God can separate. Society today is very anti-marriage. The general view is that marriage is only a legal piece of paper that allows you benefits. In retaliation to me getting married people (including family) would say things like, “statistics say that your marriage will fail”, “you’re too young, you’ll just get pregnant and drop out of school”, “your life is going to be ruined” and worse. One family member even tried bribing me. Ridiculous, I know. But I’ll be the first to say that Ernest and I have beaten all odds and have overcome adversity. I am graduating in May, my husband in June with his masters, we don’t have any kids, and I can’t be happier. I haven’t heard a peep out of those who thought we would fail because of their general, societal, view of marriage. Empowering…definitely.

Being married has helped me in so many ways. For example, it has helped me in regards to dealing with and relieving stress, assistance with tough decisions, various levels of personal growth, and the list continues. A husband/wife is suppose to be someone who knows you best and there is nothing in the world better than having a companion – other than mom, dad, sister, or brother – by your side who you can trust to have your best interest in mind.

As I have said my journey has been an amazing experience. I truly feel happy and complete with no regrets. We have conquered the odds and are looking forward to a bright future and I want others to have the opportunity to do and feel the same. Society has obscured the true meaning of marriage and has hidden the very positive and uplifting aspects of this union. So I want to attempt to undo what has been done by telling my story; showing people that marriage is not a hex on ones life, neither is it a burden, life ruining force, or piece of paper. It is a union based on agape love that should be respected and sacred. Take heed.

- Cairesse Grimes

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Migrating South by North

Growing up, Los Angeles was the older brother I never had. LA seemed cooler, rawer, more exciting, slightly dangerous, and above all, different. Visions of grandeur suffocated my mind as I imagined living the A-life: cruising Sunset with the next big thing wrapped around my arm, jaunting to the hills for 360° parties, lazy beachside living on some private Malibu stretch. This seemed just a taste of the good life I hungered for. The longer this notion ate at my stomach, the more the pangs turned to nausea.

My quiet perch in San Diego left me yearning for a new outlet. I constantly ridiculed my father’s exodus from LA thirty years prior, unable to fathom any motives for leaving a seeming paradise. I felt I was riding the bench while these Angelenos were stealing all the showtime. But my perspective was lost in the haze to the heart of LA.

As a child, LA only really began when I drove past the Holiday Inn (now Hotel Angeleno). Visits to Grandpas’ house firmly rooted the LA of yesteryear in my mind; living in a virtually unchanged Paul William’s home from the early 30’s kept the lonestar this-world-is-my-own feeling so fervently espoused by current Westerners (the same Range Roving patrons now set in their ivory towers). I want this return to simplicity.

My feelings are mixed. I hated this town my first full year in residence. I felt trapped, insignificant, someone else’s doormat. The overwhelming allure of the town hooked another baitfish, but I soon found my outlets of escape.

The 405 is clearly in cahoots with Satan. Though this devilish path hampers my daily travels and often is the number one scheduling factor, it is also the introduction to my sanctuary. More mixed feelings. Until I arrive at Highway 395, then the bliss takes the wheel and doesn’t stop for all the weeks spent on top of the world in my Mammoth heaven.

Los Angeles cannot be defined, much in the same way I cannot define my experience living here. I do know there is an exorbitant amount of bullshit to wade through, but I also know the reward of finding the perfect niche in this Renaissance land.

Weston Finfer

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Don't Think" by Jordan Bunger

No thought. Just express yourself in the way that comes natural. Whatever pops in your mind, do it. Do not think. Thought breeds thought and more thought and then that more thought breeds more thought. Roll off the instinctive nature God gave you. Trust it. Trust what you cannot expect to happen. Trust the unknown. Improvise.
These performers trust their ability to act purely on instinct. The moment you worry is the moment you blank, where all eyes are on you and you’ve got nothing. A fellow performer rushes in to tap you out, the witty tag-team grudge match ensues.
The show lasts for an hour or so. One team comes on.

Performer: “Pick a text from your phone and read it out loud. We’ll do a sketch about it, whatever it is.”
Audience member: “Dude! In a hotel room in Vegas right now. Don’t know how I got here. What are you guys doing?”

That’s all it takes. Just a few lines, sometimes a word. It triggers ideas and stories, memories and thoughts that coincide with whatever has been said by the audience member. The performers run with what they’re given and juice it. They don’t pause for the thoughts or memories to come to them and don’t wait to be hit by ideas and stories. It all unfolds during the performance. It all comes out in action and speech, through body language and gestures. The people of this world, they are gods to the audience. They develop comedy without sketch. There are no writers who’ve been working out screenplays for a week. They are the few who seek to make the world a better place through their own form of charity work. I respect them for their quick witted humor, the genius that lies in creating a setting, place, situation, and dialogue within seconds of an audience member yelling out the word, “Blueberries!” And so it begins. There was no rehearsal to act out the next ten minutes of free forming scenes on the highs and lows of making blueberry pie with a best friend.
And the thought you are always left with at the end is, “Could I do this?” To which the answer always is, “How did they come up with that? Where did that train of thought come from? The audience only gave the word chicken. Where did the Vietnam references come from? How does someone’s mind go to these places? Why does it go to these places?”
So could I do it? I think so. It takes practice like anything else. The rest of us are untrained in this art. We are required to be thoughtful individuals, to work out our ideas before implementing them in a classroom or around the table at a board meeting. Our minds don’t function on the same plane as those who put themselves out there on stage.
So forget the word “think”. Just don’t do it. It will serve you very well not to.
“Don’t think.”

We have a voice. So we riot.

In the United States we are born with voices. Voices that are not attached to microphones connected to amplifiers but voices that certainly have the port for the connector cable. But a voice is a tricky kind of thing. We may plug the cable in and shoot waves through the wires proclaiming beliefs; igniting the ink; gliding the paintbrush; enlivening the feet. Or sometimes we don’t bother plugging in at all for fear of a shower of sparks or because maybe we would just rather not buy into the idea of a built-in electrical port associated with voice. That’s perfectly fine and for that very reason I will soon stop this far too prolonged voice-cable metaphor. But I will first pose this question to you, dear reader: if we have the port to amplify our voice why do some choose mute?
In Fall 2009 I had the privilege of studying in one of the most historically politically charged countries in the world: Argentina. This is a country where upon telling a young person that you are from the United States they immediately fire questions at you, are dying to know your opinion of three men: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Only after you have proved your worth as a conscious, stereotype-breaking, politically opinionated American citizen can other topics work their way into the conversation. The funny thing is that on the first day of classes we were warned of this by our professor in a political science course about democracy and dictatorship in Latin America. In fifty minutes he gave us the low-down on what we might encounter in conversation as well as on the streets: everything from protests, demonstrations, riots, and rallies to pick-pocketing, attempted kidnapping, etc. No big deal.
Fast-forward three months into the journey, two pick-pocketing experiences, one hold-up in a café, one violently assertive cab driver, 15 days of Subte strikes and one charged Hugo Chavez appearance in Buenos Aires later. Call me crazy but was still smiling just a big as I had been on the first day of classes. That is until one sweltering afternoon in October when I emerged from the underground subway and found myself in the middle of, quite literally, bloody chaos.
I had just taken the Subte for about an hour to a lower income province where I had been volunteering for the past three months. It was always the same routine: I’d hop on the D train in Recoleta, transfer twice, reach my destination and finally walk 6 blocks down the street with my iPod in, avoiding dog droppings and faulty sidewalk stones that would rock and shoot stagnant water into my shoes with one wrong step. That’s how it went every single time. Except for this one. As I stepped off the Subte, sticky and light-headed from the body heat generated by the 50-plus individuals crowded into one train car at rush hour, I inhaled my first breath of personal air. With my backpack on and hands grasping the straps that hung down at my sides I jogged up the 23 familiar steps. After the last step I turned the corner and there it was: a mob of bloody men and women running in every which direction, police officers with plastic shields, everyone yelling, nobody showing an ounce of fear. They were young people, couldn’t have been much older than me.
I was frozen. A woman hurried past me cussing and wiping her blood-soaked nose and; a man lay on his back in the distance, legs bent and feet planted on the ground grasping his head with both hands; another young woman was angrily dragging her male companion out of a heated altercation with a police officer; and behind me, behind the chaos, an old woman stood shaking her head and smoking a cigarette. She seemed the most reasonable person to ask about the situation at hand so I told my legs to defrost and forced them to shakily approach. As I came closer to her, the wrinkles deepened around her mouth and she formed a smile.
“¿Mija, que estás haciendo aquí?”
I told her why I was there and after making fun of me she went on to explain that the issue was over labor disputes and unfair wages.
O algo así.” Or something like that.
She was just there with her son making sure he didn’t get into trouble; the supportive mother, you know the type.
So there we were, chatting in the middle of a riot that was now coming to an end as people trickled away yelling obscenities and checking out their minor injuries. She assured me that it was done, that it would be okay to carry on down the street to my destination. So down the street I went. Just another Thursday in Buenos Aires.
I met Ileana in a café on the corner of Charcas and Anchorena. I was reading Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges and apparently looking quite North American because she leaned over from her neighboring table and asked with a shy smile, “Sos de los Estados Unidos?”
Sí,” I replied. “De California.”
Great answer. She loved Los Angeles. Not before long the conversation cruised toward politics and she was demanding to know my opinion of Obama and did I hate Bush just like the rest of the world too? I happily indulged her as we sipped our café con leche and compared our 21-year- old lifestyles in Argentina and the US.
It was a Sunday, three days after my riot encounter so I decided to ask her about it. She didn’t know the details but offered an insider’s view on why many young people are so passionate about politics in South America. She pointed to the violent oppression during the Dirty War and explained that the collective liberated voice of the people is something that is still relatively new to their country; they had to take every chance to use it. It was the fruit of democracy, a prize of the hard-fought struggle for justice. When I told her that many young people don’t vote in the United States, that many are uninformed and blindly follow their parents’ beliefs, Ileana said that she had heard that before but couldn’t believe that it was actually true. Then with a shrug of her shoulders and a wide grin, she spoke English for the first time that evening:
Bueno…in Argentina we have a voice. So we…we…riot.”

Mallory Massie

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pick Your Stop!

Among the array of BMWs, Mercedes, Range Rovers, and Bentleys around the Loyola Marymount parking areas we are now faced with another issue of excess. Driving in to the University Hall parking lot on the first day of classes this semester I was faced with men and women dressed wearing black pants, white collared shirts, and red vests. My roommate and I looked at each other hoping that valet parking was not actually taking place on campus, however, our fears were solidified with a sign that read “Please Pull Forward For Valet”. The first thing that I said to my roommate was “Only at LMU”. For some reason it does not seem normal for a university to offer valet. I could possibly be wrong, however, I have not heard any of my friends that attend other universities that they offer this service. This seems to be over the top and a waste of funds. This money could be better spent toward progress to more parking spots. It also seems ridiculous that students cannot take the initiative to park their own vehicles. It is understandable that at times it is difficult and irritating to find parking around campus, however, the best solution to me does not scream “VALET”.
To me there are only a few solutions that would better solve the parking problem. First, removing the ability of freshmen to bring cars their first year. Though this does seem harsh it also seems necessary. The increasing size of the freshmen classes each year with the ability to bring a car for free their first year seems to play even deeper into the problem. Either they the university needs to tell students they are not allowed to bring their cars or the university needs to have a lower acceptance total. Another solution that comes to mind is having a designated parking area off campus and offering a shuttle that would get the students to and from their vehicles safely. Though this is a solution seems ridiculous it is a solution that could work. My final solution to this problem is building a parking structure on the Hannon Parking Lot. There is plenty of space and if they were to appropriate it properly they could even build another dorm that would help with their housing shortage.
The idea that students are having to take tardies, turn assignments in late, and even having to skip class because there are not enough parking spaces for students is difficult to swallow. There is something about the idea that an institution knows that there is clearly a problem for students and faculty alike, yet, it appears that nothing is being done. LMU argues that valet is in place to solve this problem, however, it still seems to be problematic in terms of having to move cars to and from when people are in a hurry to get to and from class. Tandem parking seems to be a good idea but I know from dealing with tandem parking, it is not as easy as it looks. Though I have not seen any students partake in the valet parking system I feel that it violates the ideals of going to college in the first place. Going to school is not the same as going to dinner and having to valet your car for the time you are there. Getting an education is supposed to be a time where we become informed and well rounded individuals, individuals that will be able to thrive in the world and stand on our own feet. Even a small task of not parking your own car seems all together absurd. It seems as though it is insignificant but all it takes is a bit more patience to find a spot that will eventually open. This patience may mean that students need to come to school earlier during the times that they know has high traffic volume. The solution also needs to come from the university, as they need to make a decision and decide if they are going to continue to bandage the problem or if they are going to fix it good.

By: Alyssa Silva

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet...

Nestled in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, California is a wholesome community with high mortgages and good public schools. It stakes its claim to fame as home to Stanford University, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, and Steve Jobs, among others. In more recent days, however, my hometown has been getting some bad press. In a span of eight months, five students from Henry M. Gunn High School stepped fatefully in front of the oncoming Caltrain, a train that runs down the peninsula from San Francisco. Having graduated from Gunn in the previous year, I was already in college when tragedy first struck, but that did not soften the blow by any means. A statement was issued by the press saying that an unidentified male had been struck at the train crossing a little over a mile away from the high school. It was “still to be determined” whether the death was intentional. Having suffered from the fatality of a classmate at the hand of drunk driving a few years prior, I anxiously awaited the release of the boy’s identity, totally unprepared for the result. As it turned out, I did not know the boy personally, but the effect it had on the community did not leave me excluded from the trauma. One month after tragedy stole a treasured student, friend, and son, a young woman took her life in the same spot as her peer. The same statement was issued, and again we awaited the identity of the youth. She was a year younger than I, so the tragedy hit a little closer to home this time. Just as people were starting to remember how to stand back up again, an aftershock hit and left them back at square one. Two days later, a young man’s mother pulled him out of harm’s way, foiling his attempt to follow in the lonely footsteps of his classmates. I, along with my peers, lived in fear of who or what would be next, and we hoped that each time would be the last. August and October 2009 took the lives of another girl and boy, respectively. It had, at this point, become so commonplace that many students had become numb to the shock of it all. Of course, each fatality was a new battle with adversity, a deeper shade of darkness, and another person’s world stolen from them. 2009 ended on a morose note, to say the least, with a handful of failed attempts to keep kids off the train tracks and a great deal of people casting angry words and suspicions on our glass house. January brought a new year, a much-anticipated fresh start. Just a few weeks into our new year, almost exactly one year ago to the day, affliction again reared its ugly head. I had stopped obsessively refreshing the news reports to unearth the identity of each victim, but a phone call shortly after the press release alerted me that the train had taken our classmate and friend. There has been no shortage of criticism of the way we do things in Palo Alto, people feel as though the academic pressures or the affluent nature of our town drove these children to their unimaginable demise. The postulating never ends, but there is no explanation for the situation. I have run out of words with which to synthesize the complexities of my feelings, as it’s been nothing less than a tumultuous journey. Perhaps there isn’t any need for any, no matter what; our fallen friends are always in our hearts.

-Kelsey Laubscher

Thursday, January 27, 2011

“SoCal is where my mind states, but it's not my state of mind.”

From the outside looking in, people hear “LA” and think glamour and privilege. As I packed my things to go from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado to the City of Angels, I was looking for an adventure, something that would let me escape to a place that no one was able to describe in words. Four years later, I could not have imagined wanting to leave a city so badly. I have yet to see all that Los Angeles has to offer, and maybe that’s due to the fact that I get cold feet just thinking of driving. The image of the parking lot that is the 405 pops into my head, turning a simple thirty minute trip into an hour and a half of trying to distract myself from my newly found road rage that won’t seem to go away.

In the years before I flew a thousand miles to start my new life in Los Angeles, I had come to visit my brother while he went to LMU. I fell in love with the campus, the beautiful palm trees that bordered Alumni Mall, the sunshine in abundance as I looked out to the illustrious ocean while on the bluff. It was a mini paradise, but as I soon found out, Los Angeles as a whole did not coincide with LMU. The prominent tall palm trees grew even in the dirtiest of places, and the smog, although making sunsets more colorful and all the more unbelievable, made it hard for me to breathe. I found myself fearful of travelling by myself, as I didn’t feel that safety I felt just ten minutes before on top of the bluff.

As friends came to visit, I would take them to the tourist spots of Los Angeles. Downtown LA, Hollywood, the Walk of Fame, and the Chinese Theatre; all which define Los Angeles to those who aren’t from around here. I was embarrassed to show these landmarks off, as the sidewalks were lined with costumed characters begging for money after you take a funny picture with them. I can recall Homer Simpson following my mother and me down the block, enlisting in his friends Spiderman and Jack Sparrow to enforce the street rules that were unknown to first time California travelers. I got a sense that the people who surrounded me were all tourists, each block ending in stores that sold California key chains and t-shirts so they were able to show off their trip to “paradise” after they journeyed home. Would they embellish their trip when they tell stories to their friends and coworkers of their vacation? Was I the only person who, as I stepped out of my car, thought this can’t be THE Hollywood I see in the movies, could it be?

Over the years, I have gotten to know many of the spots that make Los Angeles beautiful. Besides campus, I can travel fifteen minutes to beaches that make my friends jealous. I have hiked in Griffith Park, people watched in Venice Beach, ridden the Ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier, and observed the art and landscape at the Getty. When I watch famous television shows or movies and I see a glimpse of Los Angeles, I smile because I am lucky to be in a place that is so desired for. I sometimes yearn to be back in Denver, a city that doesn’t spread out among the multitude of highways that take years to decipher, but I know that Los Angeles holds a special place in my heart because of how unforgettable my time has been here.

-- Jackie DiBiase

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Mushroom Miracle

As a species we have accomplished many wonderful things. From art, to exploration, to invention, we are curious and able to manipulate our environment. However, we have also made large mistakes on our journey to the present, some out of will, and some out of ignorance. the production of Styrofoam falls under the latter category. This product has been useful in many areas of human life, however its consequences have not been thoroughly thought out. Just because we can make a poisonous, expensive, and non-biodegradable substance, does that mean we should?
Styrofoam takes up about 25% of all landfills, making it the number one perpetrator of solid pollution. The reason is that it has such a short life of use, and is produced at a tremendous rate. It serves its purpose of boxing in a T.V. or refrigerator, and then becomes trash. In water, Styrofoam breaks down so that it is impossible to clean up and hazardous for marine life. On land or sea, a piece of Styrofoam has never done any good to any organism. Even if Styrofoam were easily and safely disposable, this would still be a problem. It takes 1.5 lts of petroleum to produce a square foot of the material, and using such a precious resource for such a wasteful material simply does not make sense. From start to finish Styrofoam is a bad idea, but we clearly have a use for it, so what are we to do?
A company called Ecovative Design has invented a contender to the Styrofoam institution. Their new product is called Mycrobond, and it is made up of mycelium, which is the root structure of mushrooms. Mycrobond assembles itself using food waste such as rice stalks and cornhusks. Once molds are set, roots are placed inside and left in a dark room for 3 days, after which the product is ready for use. There are absolutely no byproducts and when Mycrobond’s use is done it can be crushed onto any ground and will actually improve the quality of the soil. Instead of tossing waste into a bin to be picked up, imagine using used packaging products on potted plants, a home garden, or anywhere things grow. Mycrobond is cheap, easy to produce and has many uses, from acoustics to insulation. Mycrobond could be the healthy plastic of the future, used for more things than we can imagine today.
But this one victory in sustainable living practices is just that, one victory. Although Mycrobond has the potential to change many production markets, it is part of the larger concept of redeveloping what we think we have already developed. As individual consumers we need to support products that are zero waste, and with each purchase we cast our vote. The goals of this century are not the same as those of the past, and the culture of over consumption and disposable living are ending whether we like it or not. This is not something to be detested, but embraced as we have a last opportunity to reconnect with the millions of organisms that have made our existence possible. We need to stop thinking of our environment as a separate entity that we can abuse endlessly, and rather recognize that our species and the planet are one, the only difference between us is that one can live without the other.

-Sean M.

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School Safety

Schools on lockdown and students getting shot. El Camino Real High School and Gardena High School were in recent news when each campus was faced with the dangers of gunmen. Only a day separating them, both incidents impacted lives in ways that are not supposed to occur on grounds made for teaching and learning. In the case of the Gardena shooting, a student was shot in the head and another in the neck as the gun in a student’s backpack fired.

When I learned about the situation, I thought of how horrible it was that something like this was happening. I wondered what the students felt like. They woke up and went to school just like they would any other day, but that day was completely different. Some looking from the outside would ask what type of school it is and in what sort of area is it located in. That does not matter. People think these like this will not happen in their area, but it could happen anywhere.

I attended Hawthorne High School here in California. It was not the best of high schools according to state standards, but never once did I feel as though something bad would happen at school. Yes, there were some racial issues and gang affiliations, but they were not threatening to my education. I got ready for school every day, never thinking today is the day someone brings a gun to school. Our situations are different, but I do not think anyone at Gardena High thought someone would either. Had it crossed my mind? It was a possibility, but highly unlikely.

Still, this was a horrible situation and listening to the news, I could not help but get annoyed at what one reporter said. I have forgotten the exact words, but the reporter said that parents of 16 year olds could sit more at ease because the girl shot was 15. That statement had some truth to it, but it was still so uncalled for. The only ease that gives to parents is that their child was not harmed, but the parents are still worried. Someone took a gun to the school their child attends. There is not a lot of ease in that fact.

Again, drawing from my years at Hawthorne, I remember a time where we were put on lockdown due to some actions by a few, unruly students. Ours did not last as long as the one at El Camino Real High and it was not due to a student with a gun as it was in Gardena. In our case, the student had a suspicious weapon; a knife, I think. We were placed on lockdown, for maybe thirty minutes, and then were released. We were told to go home. I found my friend who lived on the same block as me and she said her sister was on her way to pick us up. All of a sudden my phone rang and it was my mom. She had heard the story on the news and came over immediately. My father saw the news at the doctor’s office and our family all the way in Costa Rica saw it too. They were all worried, but many of the students were still clueless about what was going on. Even though there was no shooting, there was worry.

There is no ease when something like that happens. In all aspects of life, the situations are scary. They are even sadder when students are shot. They are supposed to be in a place where they should be taken care of and things like this happen. It is a horrible thought, but it is a million times more beautiful when students can return to school with no fear, but hopes that those injured can one day return in the same fashion.

~Michelle Mitchell

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Touring, Mojitos, & Gypsies – Madrid in a Nutshell

By Colleen Bouey

“I'm way too tired to explain everything that happened today, but I should probably bring you up to speed in case the police decide to contact you. I'm safe and sound and totally fine, so don't worry but send me a message when you get this.”

In hindsight, I probably should have included a little more explanation in this email to my mom when I was halfway around the world.

On an afternoon in early July, I decided to check out a gay bar in Madrid called El Tigre, famous for its Mojitos and enormous tapas. Intent on getting the full experience, I ordered a Mojito, which turned out to be a drink fit for three people. Needless to say, I was a bit tipsy after consumption and feeling on top of the world. Being in such a fine frame of mind, I decided to head over to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, home to some of the most astounding art from the 13th century to the late 20th century. In mid journey, I was approached by two young girls asking me to donate money and sign a petition for an organization for deaf and blind children. I thought, "Why not?", signed their petition and took out my wallet to give them a euro and a half in change.

As we walked our separate ways, I looked into my wallet and realized 40 euros in bills were missing. I chased the girls down and demanded they return my money. They instantly forgot how to speak English and professed they had never seen me before. During our argument, a Spanish woman approached and asked what the trouble was. I explained the situation and she scolded the girls and told them to give me my money and that the fake petitioning was illegal. The girls kept up their act and the woman called the police who arrived about 15-20 minutes later.

The police questioned the girls for about a half hour before bringing all of us to the local police station. I spoke with various police officers, all very sympathetic and helpful. I was then escorted to another police station where I filed an official police report. While I was on the phone with the translator, the police officer that had searched the girls entered the station and handed me 40 euros. I'm not sure where it came from or how they got it, but I was incredibly appreciative.

Feeling a lot better the next day (and more clearheaded), I explored a new area of Madrid. In the very center of the city, I discovered the older of the girls with a different partner, running the petition scam with a middle-aged couple. I approached the couple and asked if they spoke English. They said yes, I told them my story and advised them not to “donate” any money. The couple thanked me and began yelling at the girls. The girls were furious and started shouting at me, “¡¿Qué dices?! ¡¿Qué dices?!", which means, “What are you saying?! What are you saying?!” I answered and was promptly spat on. Contemplating spending another day in at a Madrid police station, I looked at the girl and said, “You are pathetic.” She looked furious, called me a bitch and left.

I believe that traveling changes people in ways they would not guess. This was a completely unexpected experience that I would never have gotten at home. It was unnecessary and inappropriate and left me feeling violated, angry and humiliated. Nonetheless, I feel very fortunate because I stood up for myself, helped other people and was very lucky to get my money back. It taught the small life lesson in the importance of letting things go.

An equally important life lesson: don’t drink three Mojitos in the middle of the afternoon!

The Bitter Sweet Fact

By Alyssa Bermudes

As I walked out of my Screenwriting class today my stomach growled and howled with hunger. It was 7:05 and I had not eaten a thing since 12:15ish this afternoon. It may only have been a six-hour hiatus but I could not take the hunger pains anymore. I was in St. Robs and the closest eatery near me was the Lair. As I walked inside and through the swing around door, I filled with dread. The Lair? Really? This was my only option? I rushed over to the salad bar but to my dismay the line was about a mile long and there was no way I was going to wait around 45 minutes for an overpriced salad. I looked around and being a vegetarian and being lactose there already weren’t many other options for me. I could not go to the grill; the market and the Baja station did not seem appetizing. I left in dismay and went down to The Den deciding I would just make myself a coffee and live of that for the night until I drove home at 11pm after my shift. While I walked behind the counter to make my drink I saw there gleaming in the pastry case a delicious cookie. I had to have it. I swiped my card and helped myself to the appetizing cookie. After the five minutes it took for me to scarf it down, I got up to wash my hands and get a glass of water. Soon, I found myself disgusted with what I had just done. This was not dinner; this wasn’t even remotely healthy. I looked back on the past week and discovered that this wasn’t my first time choosing unhealthy foods for my meals as opposed to healthy ones. In fact, my dinners had all consisted of cookies, chips, pizzas and other carb heavy foods. I could not fathom this; why was I letting myself do this?

After some intense pondering I realized that it was not only my poor decision making that caused me to eat all this garbage. The eateries on campus are terrible and notorious for having primarily unhealthy options. I mean, how is it that there is only one salad bar in the Lair and that the employees that work there work more slowly than all the others? Seriously why does it take so long to put together a salad? It’s lettuce, dressing and throwing in a few other ingredients. No cooking is involved after all! The line is always outrageously long because everyone feels the same way. There are very few. So conclusion, the Lair only has one healthy stop and it is either closed (it is only open certain hours) or it’s line is way too long to wait in. It is the same at every other eatery. Pizza Del Ray is nothing but unhealthy foods. Iggy’s dinner only has greasy, high in fat foods. Roski’s is the healthiest on campus but even it is not healthy. If it was not for Roski’s wraps and sandwiches I do not know what I would do! But again we have the issue that it is only open for a certain amount of hours each day! This then only leaves the C-Lion. Here, at the on campus grocery store (smallest market ever!) there are only pre-made salads and ingredients to make your own foods. However, there are very few vegetables or fruit in sight! LMU is helping promote an unhealthy eating lifestyle for its students and this must change. LMU should work on finding new ways to incorporate healthy dishes into its eateries. There should be more than one salad bar at every eatery. Also, there should be a lot more vegetarian options for those who do not eat meat and those who want to eat more vegetable enriched meals. Maybe LMU should open a veggie grill on campus that only serves healthy, low fat dishes!

There are so many different things LMU could do to solve this problem and make healthy dishes more accessible to its students. I hope one day I will not have to skip on a meal and eat a cookie just because the salad line is too long and there are no other options. It is a bittersweet world then an unhealthy cookie seems healthier than an actual meal at the Lair.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Power of Death

Death is a two-fold definition in the Christian vocabulary: (1) physical and (2) spiritual. The word of God says that “the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life”, which is both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23 KJV). The physical aspect of this death is exactly what comes to mind: heart stopping, breath eliminating, tragic, sorrowful, death. The only thing that God hates is sin (trespasses; any action or though against God’s word or the nature of God) and if we, as human beings, continue in it He will allow sin to engulf us into its own destination: a burning hell. The spiritual aspect is derived from the second part of this scripture, “but the gift of God is eternal life”, in conjunction with several others including Romans 6:2-4, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein...Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death…even so we also should walk in newness of life”. In order to have eternal life we must die out to sin first. We must become fully focused and sold out to God. The lusts of this world must be totally forsaken. When the name of Jesus Christ is applied (stated) when submerged in water (baptized) we are buried into Christ’s death and all of our past sins are washed away and buried. This is the spiritual death because we have now died out to sin. When we come up from the water, we are new creatures without sin. In this state, having forsaken sin and having a mind and heart that desires and is focused on God, He is able to complete his salvation plan (please read Acts 2:38, John 3:5, Acts 19:1-7). We have the option to choose whether to use this power of death for life or for destruction.

Like all powers (power of words, art, music, love, etc.) death can be and is used for both good and bad. And like all powers, the conductor is the one who ultimately makes the choice of utilizing his/her power for the good or for the bad. What is wonderful about God is that we have the choice to do as we please with our powers. If we choose to use words to build someone up, we can; if we choose to use words to tear down and destroy, we can. If we choose to use music as a platform to uplift and encourage, we can and vise versa. Like wise, every human being can also choose a life of sin, which equals to physical death or can choose to die out to the lusts of this world and live a rejuvenated life unto Christ. Through something so free and beautiful as choice, men and women around the world hold a vital responsibility to employ this power that we have with keen wisdom because life depends on it. We can choose to employ death in a way that would lead to an end or we can choose to use death as a means to a beginning. The choice is ours. Choose wisely.

The Girl-Next-Door

I have been at Loyola Marymount for almost three full years. During my first two years here, I lived on campus. This past fall I did not receive on campus housing, and my intended roommate backed out on me at the last minute. I was stuck at the end of this past summer with no roommate, and no place to stay. This story definitely gets better.
I used an apartment rental website to find the cheapest apartment available that was still somewhat close to campus. I found a studio apartment about ten minutes away from campus that I immediately fell in love with. Well, fortunately, that wasn’t the only thing I fell in love with. Upon moving into my studio before the beginning of the fall semester, I accidentally hit a car that was always parallel parked in front of my apartment building. I would just give the vehicle a little bit of a love tap and then kindly inch up to leave the car space to exit the parking spot.
One day, a few weeks after the semester began, I came home to grab some lunch in between my 1:00pm class and 4:00pm class. I remember this vividly. I pulled into my normal area in front of my building, and politely love tapped the same car that I had hit at least three times by this point. To my surprise, I heard shouting and yelling coming toward my direction which terrified me. I started to pick up the pace and quickly get into my apartment building lobby. The voice of a tall black man grew louder, “Hey! Stop! I finally caught you! You have been hitting my car for the past three weeks!” he shouted loudly at me. I approached him and apologized then asked if he wanted to exchange information although no real damage had been done to his 2009 Cadillac CTS. He requested my phone number in exchange for whatever damage had been done. He didn’t want my insurance company’s number, instead he only wanted mine. He then followed his request for my digits with a request for a dinner date as well.
I initially declined the dinner offer, however, a few days later I received a text message from him asking to go to dinner again. I figured I had nothing else to do that evening and he did live right next door to my building, so it wouldn’t be terribly inconvenient. I went out with him later that evening and found him more attractive than the first day we interacted with one another. He was quite the charmer and our first dinner date was a success. We laughed and joked about how I would always hit his car and then look left, look right—and rush into my building. Apparently he knew all along who had been hitting his car.
After the first date, I agreed to another lunch date with him. We totally hit it off from that point on. As of October 2010, Mr. Jones and I have officially become an item. He still says, “I guess there really is a girl-next-door”.