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.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Role Models?

Three years ago on the eve of the Grammys, Chris Brown beat his now ex-, pop star, Rihanna. Even though Brown is currently serving five years' probation for this assault, they are back together again but this time making music. As soon as this was announced, it became a popular topic on almost every social network.
It was perfect timing for Brown to reveal, via twitter, about his new songs since he just performed and won at this year's Grammys. He may have done this as a way to defend his involvement at the event because there was tension that night over the performance. One of the main anti-Brown protestors, Miranda Lambert, commented via Twitter about Brown tweeting, "Chris Brown twice? I don't get it. He beat on a girl... Not cool that we act like that didn't happen." While it does seem that because Brown is such a popular artist right now society is overlooking his act of violence, it is important to remember that the domestic abuse was an event in his personal life. Furthermore, only recently has Brown been involved in public events. Executive producer Ken Ehrlich for the Grammy’s commented on his performance and stated, "We're glad to have him back. I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you'll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened."
Brown should not forever be ostracized for his mistake but he should make more of an effort to apologize for it. Since he is a public figure his actions need to reflect the responsibility he is taking. Obviously Rihanna has forgiven Brown for brutally beating her, but how can the public do the same when he continues to have Twitter rants such as this one: "Our society is full or rappers (which I listen to) who have sold drugs (poisoning)"... "but yet we glorify them and imitate everything they do. Then right before the worlds eyes a man shows how he can make a Big mistake and Learn from it, but still has to deal with the day to day hatred." If Brown showed more self control the public would be able to forgive him sooner.
In Rihanna's case, fans only show more disappointment with the way she is handling her abuser. In her interview in Rolling Stones she said, "I just didn't want to make it more difficult for him professionally. What he did was a personal thing-- it had nothing to do with his career. Saying he has to be a hundred feet away from me, he can't perform at awards shows--that definitely made it difficult for him."
While Rihanna is showing her support for other artists and maturity for the act Brown committed against her, she is no longer being a strong advocator against domestic violence. While the public may think it is too soon for her to start having contact with Brown, she is demonstrating that she is able to forgive and move on with her life. Hopefully another romance will not resume and instead they will address their efforts against domestic abuse.

Quotes from LA Times article, “Chris Brown, Rihanna collaborations spark controversy.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Life-Transcending Love of the Toad and the Phoenix

I will never remember the first time I met Zoe Benjamin the way most people do when they meet their best friends. I have no idea where we were or what interaction took place between us, or even the first time we recognized the depth of our closeness. I cannot remember the first time we held hands, when her frail, worn digits first folded into the protection of my grip. The first time she scratched my head and smelled my hair because she loved the scent of natural oils will forever remain a mystery to me. To most people, it is important to celebrate the moments when they find the souls they truly connect with, beginning the process of intertwining lives, enriching them. These first encounters, however, never felt as momentous with Zoe. The celebration of our paths crossing seemed more a reunion than a fresh discovery, a serendipitous reminder that we had known each other before this life. When we met again, in a valley in Montana in a small boarding school named Chrysalis, it was as though we had never left each other’s side at all.

All I can remember is the strength of our bond from the very beginning of our knowing each other. The closeness we felt was palpable, certain. It was stronger than the feeling that we had known each other all of our lives, for we both understood that our bond was stronger than more mere lifetime. We awoke in each other faith so deep that to ignore it, to rationalize or analyze or criticize it would be the equivalent of renouncing our very spirits, our very existences.

Zoe’s skin is dark, a Russian Jewish olive just shades lighter than her short, wild hair. I think now of her tattoos acquired after Chrysalis. An artichoke on her wrist. A cockroach on her neck. An elaborate and luscious jellyfish down her slim shoulder and arm. Life’s way of never being kind to Zoe had one of the most interesting affects on a human being I have ever seen. A nagging heroine addiction has gripped much of her life, springing from the introduction from her first babysitter at the age of 12. As well, her body is riddled with burn marks and scars, self-inflicted. But the pain she hides is tucked beneath her bursting personality. She is full of love and joy and want for good and peace. A dirty hippie, most people hug lightly the frail body that carries piercings and clothing and hair that you never really knew from where they came or where they have been. And yet, she hugged with all her heart. “You are so beautiful,” she would say with total conviction.

“How many lives have we known each other do you think, Zoe?” I texted her from my bed one night a couple months ago, guessing 40 or 50 lifetimes myself. Realizing the time difference between us, I anticipated an answer to reach my phone the next morning. A few minutes later, my phone vibrated.

“37,” she replied simply, a number I agreed felt right.

“Good night, Sitting Toad,” I sent back with a smiley, using a name I gave her for her slow, wise ways.

“Sleep well, Phoenix of the Sun,” she responded, using an epithet I acquired from living a life of resilience, rising from the ashes of a turbulent past.

There is no evidence that the phenomenon of consciousness transcends the boundary of the physicality of existence. When we die, it is assumed by some that all of the wisdom and emotional capacities and memories die with us. But I know better than to believe in that. Western culture especially denies us of the chance to consider our experiences as cyclical, the idea that the energy we find in love is just as transferable as any other energy exerted in humans.

Springtime in Montana carries many traditions in wet wind that gives life to the dead browns and reds of leaves, pine needles, and other casualties of winter months. Burn piles are erected on plots of clear land around the various patches of Chrysalis property. Girls are assigned areas to rake and haul all of the fallen debris that coats the dense forest around us. The must of the damp, hibernating wood fills our lungs as we make dutiful trips to and from the piles, which grow into collections spanning at least a dozen yards in diameter. One is formed right outside of the house Zoe and I live in.

I match Zoe’s affinity towards nature, but her love oozes with the energy that seeps out of people who always seem close to bursting with gratitude.

We both fall in love with this rare display of perfect flame, and through us it becomes alive, celebrated as a sort of pet.

“What should we call it?” I ask her the first night we stand in front of it, our hands extended towards the warmth.

“Element,” she says, eyes and smile wide on her face.

We keep the fire going for almost a week, secretly making farther and farther trips every time we fetch wood to “feed” Element. One of the dogs finds a dead squirrel suffering badly from rigor mortis. We feed the animal to Element, deciding that cremation is both the most respectful form of burial and the coolest to watch.

Eventually, Kenny catches on to the abnormal life span of the creation, and disbands it with a rake to the horror of Zoe, who mourns our pet’s loss on my shoulder.

Faith is not blind, as some would have you believe. It does not exist in place of evidence, or work to disprove what feels true in practice. Faith, I believe, is risking the assumptions of the safe, the proven, and the ordinary in exchange for rooting for the miraculous, no matter how mundane the world may seem. When you hear hoofbeats behind you, the world tells us, expect horses, not zebras.

Zoe and I will always hear zebras.

Your weekend warrior,


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tell the Truth Day

Instead of complaining about some earth-shattering issue I think society should be blamed for, this week I decided to go back to the very core of this blog and write about truth. As a little experiment, I thought it would be to fun to challenge myself to tell the truth for an entire 24 hours, and write about what I learned from the experience. Well, I learned that I tend to lie a lot, even when I don’t know I’m doing it. I lied during conversations, I lied in texts, hell I even lied on facebook. Sorry Jared Clark, I will not be going to your 22nd birthday bash even though I clicked the dreaded “going” button so I wouldn’t have to explain that I was skipping it to watch Glee in my pajamas. Telling the truth ALL the time is a lot harder than one might assume. Think about the very first thing you say to someone, “hey (insert generic name here), how are you?” How many times do you answer that honestly and say, “Pretty shit actually, my stomach has been hurting all day. I think it might be gas.” I’m guessing not so often. Most of the time you would just smile and give a pleasant, “good thanks, and how are you?” We have to edit and conceal what we think so that what we say follows proper social protocol. We try not to hurt people’s feelings because it would be harder on us than it would be on them. We cut conversations short so that we don’t have to feel guilty about how fake we are being.

But what if everyone said exactly what they thought. What if we didn’t filter, or exaggerate, or deceive? What if when my roommate asked me whether or not I minded if she borrowed my Tupperware, I screamed, “YES. Yes I mind very much in fact. Because somehow you’re washing makes things more dirty and sends my OCD induced anxiety through the roof!” instead of a polite, “of course not, use anything you like.” What if when my mom asked how the job search was going, I said, “it’s not really going at all,” instead of, “Good, I think there are a couple of options that look promising.” What if instead of commenting on the weather, the middle-aged woman next door who hides her beautiful figure by wearing those horrid mom jeans, asks me what she really wants. “Why on earth do you young people put holes in your face? Rings are for fingers not for noses.” I know she wonders because when we speak her eyes keep glued to the shiny silver protrusion jutting out from my nose, and she never looks directly into my eyes. I suppose looking into someone’s eyes is a form of honesty in itself. Rarely can I ever do so if I am fully telling the truth; deception like that is for people who get pleasure out of it, not for people who are driven by fear. What if we said to hell with social etiquette and we told the truth with our words, our faces, our tears, and most of all, with our hearts. Would it really be so bad? Before I sound like I am going to give some profound, insightful answer on how to live openly and free, I am going to stop and be honest; I have no clue. Maybe our lies are good, maybe we need them to survive. All I know is it is something worth thinking about. So my challenge to everyone who is reading this is to be utterly, painfully honest for a whole 24 long hours, and see what you learn about yourself as well as what others learn about you. If you succeed, I suggest you take yourself out for a celebratory drink because not only have you accomplished the almost impossible, but you will have probably pissed off all your friends who would have come with you. Happy truth-telling!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feeling a little bit risqué

I straighten my legs slowly, counting in my head a full eight, my nose ending an inch from my knee. My heels are raised, the pointy ends hovering in the air as the slippery thin soul grips the edge of the plastic chair. I’m going to fall and break my face. I am white-knuckling the back of the chair. Keep your arms calm. I swear that half my effort goes towards looking effortless. During the period of maybe two minutes a million thoughts run through my mind as I execute each step. Only after the fact do I take a moment and reflect on what would my mother think?

This nagging feeling taps me on the shoulder and gives me a proverbial scolding of “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Which makes me think what am I doing and why do I care? I break it down logically: Am I embarrassed that I’m taking a burlesque class? No. Am I embarrassed because of residual guilt I have from my mother’s judgment? Of Course! My parent’s judgment, despite her being in the dark, still sneaks into the small places I don’t think exist in my mind. Those spaces that cause uncontrollable reactions like my cheeks getting a little flushed when she talks about how a Laker Girl would not be a suitable job, or when my head begins pounding because she voices her opinion on how the backup dancers are looking more and more like strippers. No matter how much I try, these comments she makes stay with me whether or not she’s even around me.

As I start thinking about why her opinion affects me so much, my mind wanders back to when I turned eight and my jazz class did a dance to the Bee gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” The dance echoed the style of disco and so did the costume, which caused a huge uproar from the parents. We glittered like little disco balls in our black and white halter-jump suits. I thought we looked fab. All the mothers saw the neckline as a travesty. Questions arose, raised voices ensued, strap adjustments were made, and the costume passed inspection. From that year on little battles were won and lost on the parts of the parents, teachers, and me. By high school I finally got my mom to realize booty shorts were the norm so at least I won that one.

Maybe there’s still a part of her that sees me as that little girl in costume cut too low. Maybe there’s a part of me that sees her side of some of the arguments we have over taste. But, for now, as I slink around the plastic chairs in the studio, I’d rather let my mind focus on the fun I’m having versus the guilt I may incur later.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Her Sacred Expanse

In a dim college apartment she’s still aloof. Christmas lights give enough glow. She prefers natural light but this is the best she can do. It’s perfect. Her little white socks leave a bit of her ankles exposed. My eyes crawl upward. The belt that hugs her hips sits just right and her shirt grazes the top of it. Her long brown hair hits the middle of her ribcage. Most of it is pushed to one side, her right, and snakes around her curves.

Before my eyes can continue their pursuit she moves to change the music. She apologizes for how it was. It was on shuffle, or a random mix. Whatever it was it had only heightened the haze of my hungry gaze. Now that gaze was broken, for which I was bitterly grateful. I had forgotten time didn’t pause.

When she smoked she leaned back into the cushions behind her. The smoke streamed straight, directed with effortless attention like a beam. I inhaled, my ribcage expanded. I looked down at the burning orange then lifted my chin. The smoke billowed out of me as if emerging from my aura. As I looked at her, she talked with a slight smile. The smoke framed her face. She blinked to look down; she blinked to look up at me.

My phone chimed. I stepped over the cushions on the floor. I picked up the phone, it’s light was an intruder. I set it down, looking back to where I was before. The silhouette of the flowers I had given her that afternoon caught my eye. Tiny roses, pink and orange, bundled freely in a clear vodka bottle. She had blushed when I had given them to her. Now they sucked in the last bit of light coming through the window.

Lying stomach down on the futon at the foot of the couch, I can see the back of her body. I obey my urge to take a quick look, then return. Her hair is still to one side. I continue my previous journey of the eyes. Up. Her face…her skin…her subtle freckles. They are faint and adorn her body, but the dimness of the room and the closeness of our bodies somehow make them possible to see. Your skin is milk and your freckles are sprinkles of cinnamon, or yoghurt…or honey. I think this but instead I simply say: I like your freckles. She blushes and looks down.

Her phone lights up. It’s her brother. We then talk about family. Her mother. She paints me a picture of her—her words, her habits. We laugh at first; then we stop. She talks about her mother slower now. I reach my hand to move a piece of her hair. Gently coiling it and pushing it back, I expose a piercing at the top of her ear. She is more still. My skin is throbbing. To make her laugh I say: We can’t even imagine the ways we will one day fuck up our children like our parents fucked us up.

I flirt with an urge to expose my fears, my stories, my past. It’s not until she moves a piece of hair out of my face and my chin lifts up that I notice I had been looking down. One blink and she sees me. We just do the best we can, she says, beaming her eyes into mine and answering every question.

Time stops in this capsule. She holds eternity in the blink of her eye.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Facebook Parenting: For the troubled teen.

Last week I heard about a new YouTube video in which a man shoots his
daughter's laptop over her Facebook status, and my immediate first
thought was, what a waste of a laptop. I did not care about why her
father resorted to such an extreme punishment or what her status was.
I just prayed it was not a Mac. Although I quickly forgot about the
video as soon as I heard about it, the radio stations this morning
were all discussing it. And when I heard about what the fifteen year
old girl posted about her parents, I could not help but agree with her
Dad's response.
"I can't wait for the day when you get too old to wipe your ass, don't
call me asking for help. I won't be there." Her hatred for chores
caused her to write this. It was such a powerful statement over
an insignificant issue. She complained about putting the dishes away, doing her laundry, as well as
cleaning the floor and counter tops. At that age, life is not
According to her father, when he was her age he had moved out, lived on his own,worked two jobs, attended college, and volunteered as a fire fighter
all at the same time. And all he asked of his daughter was to keep
the house tidy. While I cannot relate to the father’s impressive
resume as a teen, I know what it is like to dread chores. However, now
that I am in college and three months away from graduating, I have
become extremely grateful for how my parents raised me.
At fifteen I did not have a laptop or a cell phone and was forced to do
chores to earn them both. Even though I went to a private all girls
Catholic school where some girls had two cell phones, in addition to
their Mac books, I did not receive these luxuries until my parents
felt that I deserved them. I had to get straight A’s and play two
sports to finally have my Razr and PC. But I do not resent my parents
for being so harsh with me, instead I appreciate it.
Because they taught me that I had to work for the materialistic items
that I desired, they helped me transition into the independent person
I am today. When I was a teen, I felt the same anger towards my chores but I
would never publically post it on the web. Teens are getting too
comfortable posting personal details about their lives that they do
not care who they hurt with such actions. While I would love to use
the blocking feature on Facebook, I am mature enough to not post
anything where I would need to use it.
Due to the technological advancements of this modern age, teenagers
are becoming more ungrateful instead of hard-working. Not all parents
need to shoot their children's prized possessions, but they need to
teach them that they have to do more than just want something, they
have to earn it.

Friday, February 17, 2012


“Did it hurt?” I watch eyes trace the ins and outs of the ink my skin now celebrates. A month has gone by since the work was done. Without fail, this is the first question that comes out of slack-jawed mouths as I reveal the dyed skin below my collarbones, the maze of shapes and colors glowing with intricacy. Hands rub naked chests soothing sympathy pains as furrowed brows digest the scene. This question is genuine, but not really a question begging an answer.
Of course it hurt.
At first I did not understand this universal response to the art on my skin. For the five hours it took to construct the piece and few weeks it took to heal it, the rest of my life seemed plenty of time to make the pain worth it. But people have a way of acting when something uncomfortable has just brushed their senses. How else can you react when a girl has just revealed 9 interwoven triangles on one of the most sensitive parts of her body? They look to identify, relate to this choice I made in the first week of what is supposed to be the last year of our lives. Most people, it seems, relate only to the pain of the operation.
The placement is purposeful, personal, vulnerable. It is a commitment to myself; a reminder to stay humble. The night the idea came to me was cold, even for January in Chicago. I was sitting cross-legged against a wall of a building with nothing but a t-shirt, but inside I had felt overheated; I invited the awakeness that came with the wind. Vibrations moved through the brick wall from the blaring music of the party. I had just come from a basement hot and wet and packed with people whose faces looked lost and whose hands were quick exchanging substances and touches with strangers they felt close to. The gathering overwhelmed me for some reason. I found peace meditating outside, facing a garage and looking up. The sky looked crystallized as though the stars themselves were frozen in place, augmented by telephone wires streaming across. More aware than ever of my creator, I thanked the power that tipped us into existence. You realize sometimes that these moments could have never happened. Existence is perfection. I felt indebted to this connection, to this relationship between creator and created.
Two weeks later, I called a friend who tattoos and email him the designs. The ‘wings’ of the piece are inspired by a Brasilian graffiti artist named Zezao who uses bright layered colors as his palette for his art. The middle is a Sri Yantra, a Hindu symbol of nine triangles. It is the embodiment of abundance and beauty. The intersections of the nine triangles represent the nine stages of growth of the human child in the womb. It is the yantra of sacred knowledge. It unifies the masculine divine and the feminine divine. Once drawn, I called the piece, “Creation.” All creation is (or should be) an ode to the ultimate creator.
Unintentionally, it has become a Rorschach test for eyes that search for meaning among the abstract twists of nonsense shapes. People try to make sense of the strokes of strong color. My mom’s side is on my right. The fiery red burns for her intense soul. The calm, blue hues of reason, collection, agency are for my dad.
“I see pieces of life,” a friend points to the dark blue squiggles. “It’s beautiful… like watercolors.”
“I see fireworks” says another friend.
“You’re never going to get a job,” my mom said as she shook her head, searching her bag in a panic for the pack of Virginia Slims holding her next dose of calm.
This is partly true. My career at IBM was forced to a halt before it even started. Then again… I never want to work for companies that discriminate anyway, so I guess that isn’t much of a problem. Still, my mom takes little comfort in this. I promise not to show her again.
Sitting in my living room, I look into the eyes of someone beautiful. Heart pounding, I fear what she will think of it, this new piece of me. Will it will make or break the way she looks at me now? Like revealing a deep secret, I unbutton my shirt to expose this part of me to her. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” Her eyes stay fixed on it, as mine do on her, reading her face, digging for her thoughts. Her touch is cool against it; the lotion on it makes her fingers cling to the damp skin.
In researching the Sri Yantra, something I now do often, I always find beautiful new ways of describing it. This was in a blog about worship through the Yantra; I love it.
One should approach the Divine Mother without any reservations. One need not express one’s want, difficulties, complaints, problems to her for she knows your needs better and will give you what you need and at the same time she will also protect you.
To imagine this, I let go of all temporary flesh and know that these bodies are beautiful but hopelessly finite. Most art, I find, lasts longer than us anyway.

Your weekend warrior,

Thursday, February 16, 2012


“Babies,” she says “Are fascinating. Did you know that by the time they are four years old they are able to understand the concept of inheritance?”
“No,” I admit, “I did not know that.” She nods, turning back to her book.
I’ve known Wendy since my freshman year of college, when she was roommates with one of my best friend at UC Santa Cruz. I remember waking up one morning in their cramped dorm room to a slightly illegal smell and turning over to find a girl with long brown hair in a tank top and cargo pants sitting cross-legged a few inches away from me, a small bong resting on her knee.
“Hi, I’m Wendy. Want a hit?” I peered behind her at the glowing computer screen that informed me that it was 8:20 in the morning. The sounds of Cat Stevens danced out from the tiny speakers on either side of the monitor.
“I think I’m good for right now.” She nodded and went back to her morning routine.
Fast forward three years and I’m sitting in the parlor of her house in Santa Cruz, sipping an apricot ale, surveying the lay of the land that is her front yard. The fence surrounding the garden boxes is painted rainbow. There are two tubs at the edge of the lawn, one containing copies of an anti-propaganda film and the other containing informational DVDs on sustainable living. Just in case a passerby feels inclined to educate themselves. Flyers for “Occupy Oakland” line the driveway. A former tenant painted the image of Frida Kahlo on a bedroom window with the words “Grow Peace” floating above her head.
I’ve never met anyone quite like Wendy. There’s a lot of people, places, and topics of discussion that I encounter on these trips that would have never penetrated my Southern California bubble, a fact that I’m greeted with almost immediately whenever I return to this place. I always find myself pondering how different my life would have turned out had I chosen the path that my friends did in moving to Santa Cruz. How would my interactions be altered? Who would the important people in my life be?
It’s the same song and dance every year, every time I make the long windy trek down Highway 17 and finally emerge from the forest into the tiny coastal town. There’s something about this place that always disarms me, always forces me to remain stationary for a little longer than I’m comfortable with. As a self-proclaimed “city girl” I often find it deeply hypocritical that every three months or so I begin to whine about needing a weekend away, if only to catch my breath.
Like an overworked hamster being flung from its wheel, I arrive at my destination and immediately brace myself for more stimulation. What I find here is anything but; everything seems to move much more slowly. It’s excruciating at first, but it’s a characteristic that I learn to match quite quickly.
Upon returning to LA it’s hard not to look back on time spent in Santa Cruz as anything more than novelty. It’s hard to remember anything as clearly as that which is in front of you, and once the San Fernando Valley disappears behind me it’s back to the never-ending stimuli I was cursing just hours before.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chip fanatic

My name is Hannah and I am a carbohydrate addict. Specifically potatoes. There’s something about those stupid lumpy starches that make me unable to stop eating them. I wish I could say that my addiction lay only with the healthy preparations of potatoes like baked or roasted, but no mine is a much fattier and processed kind of love: Chips, fries, and mashed with gravy (I only really indulge in mashed at holiday time or at a restaurant, but if there are fresh mashed potatoes anywhere in my vicinity, they will be consumed at a rapid and inhuman rate.). If I could break down my addiction the levels would be something like this:
Can’t live without my….
1. Salt and Pepper Crinkle cut, kettle cooked chips (Trader Joes brand Duh)
2. Potato wedge seasoned fries (By seasoned I mean that orange hued set of spices that make them the best tasting fries out there)
3. Seasoned Curly fries
4. Regular thin salted fries (I hate plane fries)
5. Regular lays potato chips
6. Salt and vinegar potato chips (preferably kettle cooked, but I’m not too picky in terms of these)
7. Mashed potatoes (garlic or with gravy, but never both at the same time)
8. Steak cut fries
9. Tater tots

Yes on the road to becoming an addict, somewhere on the way I also became a connoisseur of sorts. I can give you recommendations on what chain has the best fries considering what type of fry you want, I know what brands of potato chips have the best texture, and I can always tell when mashed potatoes are real or the fake little flakes. Yes somewhere between addiction and passion I now find myself lost, for I chose at the beginning of this new year a new years resolution for the ages. No chips. Ok so that’s not that crazy, especially seeing the list that offers six other types of potatoes I could potentially eat, but the chips were honestly the ones that I ate the most and were the most accessible. For instance, at the beginning of the year I went through a family sized bags of potato chips in one to two days…by myself… almost every week. It didn’t help that my friends constantly bought chips so that they could watch the process of inhalation occur (they bought be one hundred bags of chips and a Costco size family bag of crinkle cut salt and pepper on my birthday, plus six packages of spaghetti, and a cheesy bread, and a two pound cake) but either way something had to change. If I let this go on who knows where I’d be now? Waking up passed out with empty fry containers around me. Hording chips in my pillowcases? I couldn’t risk these heinous possibilities. I quit cold turkey one Monday night.
I had been going strong for four weeks when suddenly it happened, Super Bowl Sunday. The very day that beckons even the healthiest of eaters to the tables that hold the most deliciously bad food anyone could have cooked up. Just my luck that when I get to the party that I see no potato chips except the remnants of some Lays Crinkle Cut chips in the bottom of a bowl. Easy, I pass by without so much of a glance. With the game almost at an end I feel proud that the chips didn’t even faze me, I think to myself Yeah good job you’ll never want chips again. Suddenly my friend brings out an un-opened bag of potato chips. I die. The next few moments are a blur. A Bag is passed, the dip brought out, and before I know what I’m doing I’m eating the chips.
Although I wanted to be upset, I really didn’t care. In the end I realized that despite my total lack of will power, I can exercise my newfound moderation skills that some how developed over my short period of deprivation. So as short lived as my resolve had been on my ban against ships, I gained a healthier perspective of all things being fine in smaller quantities. I guess anything is smaller than a Costco Family Sized product so that gives a good deal of leeway for improvement

Men, Women, and Everything In Between

Jersey Shore. Just the name brings about universal images of hot tub sexcapades and naked, drunken debauchery. I remember when I first saw an episode of the beloved reality show. I had wondered how much of it could actually be real. After all, I had never met people that were so utterly shameless. Luckily enough, a girl’s night out on the hipster filled street of Abbott Kinney cured me of my curiosity. A man at the bar struck up a conversation with my friend and I, and when we asked him what he did for a living, he said he was one of the producers on Jersey Shore. My emotions were a mix of excitement and disgust. I politely asked him what he thought of the show, and whether the cast was really as promiscuous (which was putting it lightly) as they seemed. He assured me that they were, and said he actually thought it was quite refreshing. Of course, my constant need to speak my views led our conversation to become an hour-long debate on whether or not people should be completely free spirits. His argument was that we are taught to feel guilty about certain actions and behaviors, but that as human beings, we aren’t supposed to. Perhaps I haven’t lived here for long enough, but it seems to me that most of the youth in Los Angeles have much of the same view as my new friend, the producer of Jersey Shore.
Men talk about women like they are bodies molded in different shapes and sizes for their personal preference. Sex is not about attraction or love anymore, it is about convenience. Women aren’t much better. They seem to have lost their ability, or maybe even their desire, to be respected. Just the fact that Jersey Shore has become such a big hit, for whatever reason, shows how society has deemed it acceptable. My complaints are not against sex itself, on the contrary, I believe we should enjoy life what it lasts. I have just always thought that what happens before sex, is as important as what happens during. Getting to know someone, learning what you have in common, flirting over drinks or dinner, those are things we used to want, even need, before we decided to let someone get to know us in the most intimate way possible. All it takes now is an ass grab on the dance floor, a couple of comments on how hot someone looks, and a lot of cheap alcohol.
It is impossible not to see how sexualized women have become, and how publically accepted that idea has become. Yes, most women want to be sexy, and yes, men have the right to be attracted to sexy women. But being sexy is just as much about the way a person presents themselves through what they say and how they act, as the way they look and dress. One of the most attractive things to me is when a man asks how my day is going. Not how hot my legs look in a dress, not how beautiful my smile is or how kissable my lips are, just simply asking, “so, how is your day going?” Such a simple question shows two extremely important things. 1) They are interested in our lives, and 2) They see us equals. My view of sex may be a tad romanticized, but it’s not as if I am saying we need to live in a Disney movie. In fact, it is much more simple than I think people realize. We want to teach our kids to enjoy someone’s company with their clothes on, so we should too. Respect should be something men and women alike demand, not a bonus we get if we’re lucky enough to run in to someone who still gives it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Yes, today is Valentine’s Day.

February 14th is, however, also host to the birthday of Arizona’s statehood, the dry and lackluster place where I was born and raised. The complex that I have with my hometown is one that I always struggle to put my finger on. I’m usually met with questioning stares when I begin to vehemently describe how much I “hate” Phoenix. One’s hometown is generally meant to evoke feelings and images of safety, childhood, and comfort. It’s the place where you can always return, where the past remains cocooned no matter how many years pass. I personally had a wonderful childhood, and for me the memories lie in the faces and laughter of my family rather than in an attachment to my desert home.

Now that I have moved away from Phoenix, making a new life in Los Angeles, no sense of nostalgia has come to visit. My issues with Phoenix always involved what I saw as a lack of culture, of which LA has more than made up for. The stifling heat of Phoenix summers that left any leather car seat physically impossible to touch and limited the options of entertainment to a pool or indoor mall, has now been replaced by crisp beach breezes and a boundless array of city to-do lists.

While Arizona’s local wildlife was certainly entertaining, I appreciate the nonchalance of my campus’ squirrels over the looming fear that the snorting javelina in my yard (think warthog without the tusks) might be provoked and start charging blindly in my direction. Even better is the forgotten woes that the soft rattling noise in the garage is yet another rattlesnake that has to be taken care of with a rake before it lays eggs. And don’t even get me started on warnings as a child to check my shoes for hiding scorpions.

So what’s the next goal for this bitter hometown deserter? Convincing the family that California is the new Arizona. I’m halfway there, with my mom’s recent relocation to Northern California, and my dad has already fallen victim to the emails about Southern California listings on the most up-and-coming neighborhoods. While the past is something to cherish, my distaste for the bland environment of my hometown has kept me moving forward into a future that doesn’t involve the necessity of a pool and fear of jumping cacti in my backyard. So here’s my ode to you, Arizona, on the centennial year of your statehood’s birth. Please don’t be too offended. It’s really not you... it’s me.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wafts of a Woman

“Babies! You’re my valentines!” My mom’s yelps echoed through the house as my brothers and I pulled the covers over our heads and dove underneath our pillows. But it was no use. She climbed into bed with us, hopping from my brothers’ room that they shared back to mine. She kissed us all over, somehow dodging our palms attempting to press away her face. Then she sang. By “sing” I mean she screeched in melody, “Aannndd I will always love youuuu!!!!” Her accent somehow only supported the volume and force of the sound.
Every morning she would be in the kitchen cooking. I never understood that other families weren’t like us. In our house, it was Lebanon, and the door was always open. I mean that literally, the knob and lock were broken. We may be good in the kitchen but we are not the most efficient at building and repairs. Onions, garlic, cumin, pepper, turmeric, we had boxes and bags of spices in the big brown cupboard in our old kitchen. My mother kept a large box full of every spice and when you opened the cabinets, they opened toward you like the Middle Eastern brown version of French doors, the smell would coat your face and talk to your senses.
One day when I got to school a girl turned to me and asked me if I had eaten an onion bagel. I told her “no” and made a note-to-self: tell mom to cut back on the morning cooking. She never did, and I still thank her for it. What I did not tell the girl was that I had actually eaten a bean dish that morning. A Lebanese peasant dish of garbanzo beans, olive oil, and yes, onions, eaten with fresh mint, tomatoes, and, yes, more onions, in pita bread. Pita bread was my toast. I ate my eggs with pita bread. And by eggs I mean “sunny side up” eggs with cumin, paprika, and mint with olive oil and possibly more onions.
My mother fed me. She fed us. She never cared for Christmas and its consumerism. We didn’t decorate eggs on Easter. A house of Arabs with fireworks would have been suspect enough so the appeal of the Fourth of July was lost on us. But she always cooked. We sat and ate. I squeezed 23 lemons for the hummus until my arms were sore and the tiny cuts I didn’t even know existed on my hands burned. She was the best cook. She is the best cook. The Lebanese community bows down to her, and if she knows I have exposed the secret of excess lemon in her hummus she might kill me or threaten to send me to Lebanon, but I feel confident that no one would be able to find a child that will sit and squeeze that many lemons.
In my grown-up apartment, in the land of Veganism that is West LA, I miss the wafts of cumin. Sometimes it comes back when I cook lentils for my roommates or when I force feed my friends insisting that they should eat more. Sometimes one of them will lean in close and warn me that my hair smells like spices.
When I’d leave school on February 14th I would walk a little bit faster to the lot to meet my mom. I would tuck my head down a bit as she pulled up yelling my nicknames in Arabic as belly-dancing music reverberated out of her car. Up in my room would be a tiny bear with chocolate and a flower. “Mama, you’re my Valentine.” I would tell her, running downstairs to her as she chopped parsley to make tabouli. She would smile so big her almond eyes would disappear in her high cheeks and she would devour me with kisses. I would laugh and push her away only after taking in her scent a few more times, “Mom! You smell like onions!”

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Super Fail

Losing bets, spending a ridiculous amount of money to watch basic television, and catching a cold are all constant reminders of how terrible the Superbowl was this year. I made bets with my co-workers and laughed in my friends' faces when they said that the Giants were going to win. I whole-heartedly believed that Tom Brady was going to get that fourth Superbowl ring and he and Bill Belichick were going to be recorded in history as the best QB/Coach duo of all time. My excitement to see my favorite team (since I was ten years old), made me dig out my old jersey and make reservations to watch the big game at the House of Blues in Hollywood.
I heard about the Superbowl event on Power 106. They were going to host all night with Papa John's for a supposedly "free" event. My boyfriend and I arrived right on time and entered a raffle contest where concert and amusement park tickets, as well as various other prizes including a 55" Flat screen, were going to be given away throughout the game. We eagerly submitted a few papers with our names on them and walked in.
They had a huge projection screen where the game was on and music blasting from a DJ that mixed the entire time. I though we were going to get free pizza and win some concert tickets, but instead we were told if we wanted to sit down we had to pay a minimum of $100 on their menu. As if the wait for the food wasn't enough (45 minutes), the food also came out cold. Therefore, we were forced to purchase overpriced single item foods, terrible drinks and equally bad waiting service.
The next day at work my coworkers collected my money and proceeded to laugh at the rookie mistakes the Patriots had made. Like Gisele said, "I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times. My husband cannot f-----g throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time." While I ignored most of their comments, football related, we talked almost all morning about the horrible halftime show.
All I can say is Madonna made a great effort to try to put a show on for the 111.3 million viewers who tuned in, but she fell short, very short. I was almost happy M.I.A. flipped off the world just to take the focus off of Madonna.
Another disappointment was the terrible commercials! I love watching the commercials during the game, but this year I was thankful that Power 106 gave out prizes during this time so I did not have to watch all of them. While Mr. Squiggly was clever and great advertisement for Sketchers, why did Audi have to promote the idea of vampires delivering pizza? That doesn't even make sense!
When next year's game comes around I am definitely staying home where the food is fresh and free. Go Raiders!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Quiet Mind

What time is it?
Did I oversleep?
How do I turn this alarm off?
Is my roommate awake?
What a crazy dream.
Did I have any homework?
Hope not.
Do I have time to make coffee?
How do I already have voicemail?
What should I wear to class?
Is it warm outside?
Do the people outside my window know they are being watched?
How often do they think about the beauty around them?
It is beautiful here.
Where the hell is my roommate?
Did she ever come home?
Am I gonna be late for class?
If I skateboard there, can I make it?
Where can I sit and still use my cell phone without my professor seeing?
Is anyone even paying attention?
Do people really use their computers for notes?
Who the fuck plays Farmville?
How has it only been 10 minutes?
Is it too early to start putting my books away?
One down, one to go.
Do I have time to eat before?
Why is the Lair always infested with douchebags?
Did anyone watch me steal this sushi?
(Moreover, did anyone honestly expect me to pay 13.99 for it?)
Is it weird that I am eating alone?
How do all of these people know each other?
Why is everyone talking about the same shit?
What the fuck is an exchange? Why do people want to be exchanged?
Do they know that, to me, this newspaper is more interesting then any of them?
Do they even know how to read, ever bother to?
Shit, I’m late.
Was it me, or did that class fly by?
How long were my ‘eyelids resting’?
All my notes consist of is a few words and a sketch of a nerdy guy with glasses.
Who is this man?
Am I going to show up for therapy today?
I should, while it’s still free.
Why do I make mistakes, knowing they are mistakes?
Why won’t she give me answers?
Why is this woman still smiling at me when she knows all my secrets?
How can she still bare to know me?
Why does she tell me to stop smiling when I talk about pain?
What is the good in talking about who has wronged me, who I have wronged?
Why do I forgive? Who is it for?
It softens the blow, but does not heal the wound.
Doesn’t she know the advantage of being the wrongdoer?
Why be broken when you can break?
I was once told it is easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission.
Wait… the hour’s up? I was just getting comfortable.
Is it obvious to her how little I talk outside of that hour, how much I think instead?
Do other people think this much?
If they do, how are they still so happy? Plastic smiles, no scars or signs of struggle.
How can anyone be so apathetic to the things that feed me life, to the extreme highs and lows that make my breaths worth taking, being taken away?
People always say that smoking hurts your lungs.
Who wants to die with perfect lungs?
Non-smokers get hit by cars every day.
Will I care about breathing easy when I am on my deathbed?
Will I make it to a deathbed?
Do I need anything from the grocery store before I head back home?
Do I have money to buy it?
Oh, right. Top Ramen it is.
Is my apartment always this dark?
Seriously, where the fuck is my roommate?
How many calls have I missed from my mom today?
She kept hanging up on me, so I stopped answering.
Why does it still hurt every time she does that?
How is her insanity still so sharp?
Where does all that anxious energy come from?
Did she have to tell me how much debt she is in?
It’s because of me, I am told.
Or that she is renting out my room?
Or that I shouldn’t worry about my stuff?
She would never throw it away. “I’m not that kind of person.”
Or that she plans to keep the puppy I raised even after I graduate?
The only creature I called my own.
Why was she surprised at how upset I was?

All my life I had asked for a puppy.
Will I ever be able to bring myself to adopt another?
What would she say if she saw me right now?
Would she be disappointed?
Does she know how much I think about that?
Why does everything in this room remind me of girls I dated, faces I kissed, hands I held, lives I lived?
Will this ever stop?
Why am I never reminded of the guys I dated?
Is it really that late already?
If I go to bed now, how many hours is it?
Is it even worth sleeping?
Why can’t my thoughts stop racing?
They say you dream about the second to last thing you think about.
Oh no, I just thought about sharks.
What else can I think about?
Not sharks.
Not sharks.
Not sharks.
Damnit, sharks.
Is it this hard for everyone to sleep?
Are peoples’ dreams as tumultuous as their days like mine?
I heard the dream is actually life, and when we die, we wake up.
What’s that like?
Why is that the thought that quiets me?
Is this what other people need?
The thought of death to hum them asleep?
Who else asks of the world, “Am I alone, the only one who finds it hard to find a quiet mind?”
My mind, now quiet with the intoxication of sleep.
I wonder, until my questions slip into dreams.

Your weekend warrior,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

When you’re gay, life is often classified into two periods: being in the closet and being “out”. That being said, the account of how each gay individual makes this transition has subsequently been dubbed “the coming out story.” Every LGBT person has one; they’re all different. W is the purpose of these stories? For the individuals themselves, of course, but it seems that lately there has been a dramatization and almost romanticism of the coming out story, mostly for the enjoyment of those not within the LGBT community.
What I’ve found in my short gay life is two things. One, that most young, straight, progressive people just really love the gays. And two, Americans just really love a good underdog. They love a good coming out story, especially if it involves being thrown out on the streets by your ultra-conservative parents or being violently ripped away from your first love at an all-girls Christian boarding school. The question that everyone wants to know once you come out is “How did your parents take it?” and I have to admit that sometimes I feel like I’m letting the whole heterosexual community down when I am forced to admit that nothing even mildly dramatic occurred after my emergence from “the closet.”
However it sometimes feels like the storytelling itself is a little less about an opportunity to get out your queer narrative and a little more about creating a platform for the listener to prove their own liberalism. Seems to me that coming out is often the equivalent to a violent Black Friday sale, with people clambering over one another to voice their acceptance of your “situation”. I remember attending a New Year’s Eve party freshman year over Christmas break with my first girlfriend. The attendees were mostly people we had gone to high school with, a time when we had both chosen to keep our relationship under wraps. However since we had gone off to our respective universities, we had began the gradual process of coming out and once we went official on facebook, the shit kind of hit the fan back home.
One girl in particular looked to be especially shocked by this real world proof that two of her former female classmates were now dating each other. She stood in the corner at the far end of the room, jaw dropped and eyes bulging. Much later she caught me en route to the kitchen to get another drink. She grabbed my arm, pinning me against the doorway.
“You guys are so cute,” she slurred, spilling some of her Keystone Light onto my converse. “I’m so happy for you.” I nodded and smiled, trying in vain to convince her that she had done her civic duty and could now return to this party and start her New Year feeling like a progressive member of society. She reached out and grabbed one of her friends out of cluster of people and waved her hand frantically in my direction. “Oh my god. Allie, how cute are they?” Allie nodded quickly, locking eyes with me.
“So cute.”
I felt awkward, as if I should also be validating the relationship she seemed to be starting with the roided out frat boy whose lap she had been sitting on, but somehow it seemed highly inappropriate. I again smiled and nodded, trying to make a quick escape before more Laurens and Ashleys and Shannons were added to the conversation, all to confirm that my relationship was not at all unnatural or sick or perverted.
It’s a similar story nowadays, whenever I meet someone new and they spot the tiny rainbow ribbon on my backpack I can see the fire in their eyes, waiting for me to stop speaking so they can vehemently bash Prop 8 and tell me that their mother’s secretary’s neighbor is gay and that maybe I know her?
I don’t mean to complain so much, really.
The mantra my gay elders have wisely gifted me with is that “coming out is a daily experience.” Heteronormativity is like an untamed beast in society, creeping up on the daily and reminding queer people that they are not the majority, not "the norm." Although the validation upon outing oneself may be warranted in some situations, in many it just seems to exacerbate the gap between straight and gay. And while I appreciate the support, I just really long for a day when I can tell a new friend that yes, I would like to make out with Rachel Maddow and not to have to sit through a subsequent awkward story of how she went through a gay phase one night at a Sigma Chi party.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Generation 'Text'

I remember a time when people articulated when they spoke. A time when people would meet in person to discuss their love life, and “ily” were simply the last three letters of “happily” and had nothing to do with the cherished words “I love you.” Contrary to the belief of our tech-obsessed generation, that time was not that long ago. I realized those days were but a distant memory when I visited my sister over summer.
It was a beautiful, warm day and New York was bustling with life and energy. Hipsters strutted down the street with their plaid shirts and much too tight pants, and artists surrounded the busy park while crazy old men held signs in their air saying that Jesus would be ashamed of us. Meanwhile, my sister and I were having lunch at a cute little café right around her perfect Manhattan loft. The day just couldn’t get any better. Except for the fact that she hadn’t uttered one word to me in about two hours. Instead, she sat with her eyes glued to her phone giving the occasional nod and “mhmm, yeah.” It occurred to me then that I had lost her to the only drug our world actually encouraged, the dreaded crackberry.
What has happened to the simple moments of real human contact? How bad will it get if we haven’t even scratched the surface of modern technology? The texting, the web surfing, the facebooking, the googling, and my personal favorite, the cat picture stalking. I read a CNN article online today that said that the average man keeps their phone within arms reach for 17 hours a day. 17 hours a day! That means the only times they might not have access to their phones are when they sleep, and perhaps when they take the occasional bathroom break. But for the rest of the day, we are proven utterly useless without our precious multi-media gadgets.
Today, we can watch television on our phones, scan plane tickets on our phones, we can even link our phones to our credit cards and use them to shop at stores. Think about it, our phones actually have more power than we do! On top of the excessive texting, tweeting, and picture taking, we refuse to speak in full-length, grammatically correct sentences. I guarantee that if you are younger than 25 you will probably understand most, if not all of this horrid conversation:

Nm dood, wat u doin tonight
Maybe go 2 dis party, lowkey though.
Where at?
Idk, think the valley
Fml, super far.
Seriously. Smh

Not only have we become so accustomed to a screen instead of a physical person, but we have butchered one of the only things that set us apart from apes. A complex, and at times extremely useful, language. So I plead with you, for the sake of all that is good in humanity, put down your phone, and visit your mother or father for a good ol’ fashioned human conversation.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Heart the 90's

Most Saturday mornings begin the same for me. I drag myself out of bed at the ripe hour of 10:30 am and proceed directly towards the couch for even more lounging time in front of the television before the reality of my day has to begin. This past Saturday, however, brought a welcome surprise. Vh1 was playing back to back episodes of “Boy Meets World,” one of the most beloved shows of the 90’s. After a moment of squealing and bouncing up and down on the couch, the next two hours allowed for a comforting walk down childhood lane. Since then, the 90’s have been on my mind: the decade of my generation’s childhood that now causes many in their early 20’s to revert back to the squeamish excitement of those adolescent years the moment they hear a cheesy pop song or catch a reference to “Hey Arnold.”
So, what is it that brings this Generation Y back to the 90’s, especially now that we have begun our adult lives finishing up or out of college? As my pristine iPhone buzzes next to my Macbook, I remember the answer. The 90’s were our last years before technology infused itself into our daily lives. A childhood in the 90’s consisted of playing in the street with your neighborhood friends, calling a landline and asking the parents if your playmate was available, and interacting with one simple GameBoy as your means of digital entertainment. Though Generation Y is still young, we have already become reminiscent for the simplicity of our childhood years. When looking back, it is not the value of the 90’s that is cherished, but the remnants of this simplicity. No one truly wants to revert back to bad hair, scrunchies, and denim-on-denim. These looks and re-runs of family shows like “Boy Meets World” and “Growing Pains” simply cause us to defend the value of that decade against today’s abundance of reality television and sex-infused hip-hop music.
It seems, however, that the most prominent event separating the millennium from the happy-go-lucky 90’s was the peak of availability in technology that hit in the early 2000’s. 2g text messaging was introduced in the early 90’s, but was a luxury to the few that had a supported cell phone plan. At that point in time, cell phones were only used for basic phone calls (crazy, right?!), so there was no appeal in spending money on this item for children or preteens. Nowadays, I compare my first cellphone (a black and white screened plastic box) at 13 to the high speed cellphone, laptop, iPod and iPad that my 12 year old sister has. My mother’s excuse when I complain about the overkill in buying my sister all of these technological accessories sums it up. “Children are just more engaged in technology nowadays. It’s their lifestyle!”
Once we all grasped the idea that Y2K wouldn’t leave our world in the dark with the start of 2000, technology quickly infiltrated every age group in America. 2001 saw the beginning of 3g high-speed technology that allowed cellphones to have more features and some internet access. By 2007, there were 295 million subscribers to 3g networks, according to Wikipedia. And let’s not forget the introduction of social media through Facebook and Twitter that spread like wildfire starting in 2007. The days of riding bikes in the street and jumping through hoops to contact a friend who lived two neighborhoods away has been obliterated, it seems, for good.
There are obviously immense benefits to the many technological advances that our country has seen in the last decade; however, I often step back and am horrified to realize how much of my daily life revolves around a screen. Even if all I can get is two hours of a beloved show’s re-runs, at least a reach back towards the 90’s brings me back to the appreciation of a digital-less childhood.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bar Louie

Yes, I’ve grown, or grown up, since my in awe days of a newly chubby, newly stimulated fourteen to sixteen year-old girl and here I am, almost 22, and well seasoned in the touching, talking, and tumultuous living with, near, and through musicians. “Artists,” men, young boys, the lovers I can’t get away from—not to say that I have tried—and long for in their absence and lust for in their presence. As their nimble fingers climb the guitar, like my neck and back, they begin to curl and curve, hooking, and I tingle and tense knowing what they do. Sunken inside of me they navigate through my insides. Pleasure and vibrations, music through my muscles and bones, and scales as I scream and breathe and pant and die a little. They bring me back to life. Those fingers, that internal engine. Smoke billows from wet mouths fogging a microphone or dripping over an instrument. And when my body presses against theirs—staggered knees, rubbing hips, hungry chest and compressed bellies—all the fault is mine. Wet mouth, blanketed with rough skin and hair, devour me just enough, like it devoured a microphone or the undulating waves of sound. When I say that I have learned, I truly mean that I have. I have learned that I am doomed to this man. It’s not every one of them, I now pick quite closely and meticulously. I know the fingers; I know the sound, the wailing blues, that dripping sweat. The carelessness, the utter care, it makes them, their show, their instrument. The movement of their bodies, the nod of their head, the bounce of their knee or foot. I know the vibration and when I close my eyes, when I’m home in bed after watching those fingers climb on necks and backs, they climb in me, and I know the fingers, and I know the sounds, and I know the vibrations, and yes, yes, I have learned.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cell Phone Awareness

A scary moment in time is always getting pulled over. As soon as those sirens go off your heart simultaneously stops then proceeds beating rapidly as the cop walks over. Although I had never been pulled over in high school, in my sophomore year of college I became a cop magnet. I do not know why, but every month I would have an encounter with the cops that could not be for more asinine reasons. Now when I see the black and whites, I usually think, "I should really start issuing citizen’s tickets."

I do believe that cops have a hard job and are courageous for keeping our country safe, but my personal encounters with certain officers sometimes make me forget those that truly represent the men and women known as the LAPD. In my case, it feels like I only get confronted by the cops who give you a ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit, having an unopened beer on the beach, and for pulling out of the mall parking garage not wearing a seatbelt.

A new type of cop that I can add to my list are the ones who do not know California rules. It is quite the contradiction, I know. There really should be a new Starburst commercial about this. When on my lunch break, I called my coworker asking her if she wanted me to bring her back some lunch. In the middle of our conversation a cop pulled behind me and I immediately threw my phone in the back seat. Although extremely unnecessary, I have been pulled over enough times to know that talking on your cell phone while driving is UNACCEPTABLE no matter what device you are using.

When I got back to the office and explained to my coworker what happened, she forwarded me an email from the CA DMV stating the cell phone laws of CA:

23123. (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.

Two additional laws dealing with the use of wireless telephones while driving went into effect July 1, 2008. The first law prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle, (California Vehicle Code [VC] §23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a "hands-free device. The second law effective July 1, 2008, prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC §23124).

This email upset me because over the summer while talking on my phone with a hands free device, I was pulled over by a cop who gave me a lengthy lecture about how it was California law that I was not allowed to talk on my phone while driving. He also felt it was necessary to tell me in detail the fines of breaking the law, the first offense will be about $148 and $256 after that. I was so overwhelmed with his criticisms that I was about to cry when he told me that I looked like a nice person and to "Have a nice day." After all that I almost wished he had given me a ticket. I felt like I had just been in a scene from Super Troopers. Even worse, the officer made me so paranoid to use my cell phone while driving that I stopped for 6 months! From the email I concluded either the cop was clearly uninformed or he thought I was still in high school. For this 22 year old, high school was long ago.

While the motto written on cop cars reads "to protect and serve," it can be left to one's imagination over what that really means. I am sure many are pondering this phrase due to higher ticket fines in CA. I certainly do not want to pay $148, and even though I know my rights, I am still going to try not to use my cell phone while driving. In the words of NWA's "F-ck tha Police" I conclude with, "To the police I'm sayin f-ck you punk/Readin my rights and sh-t, it's all junk."


Friday, February 3, 2012

Looking Up

Another day of work is done at Camp Cody, the sleep away camp responsible for tucking my summer months into New England forests. Hours after the kids’ bedtime, I round up Allyssa and Rachel, two of my co-counselors who share my sense of wanderlust and more so the need for a cigarette to decompress from the screaming frenzy that engulfs most waking hours here.

After meeting by the shower house at the designated time, the three of us wander the property, now rid of children and heavy surveillance. We walk down the path away from the cabins we came in. Bathed by night, we are found in the white, true glow of the full moon. Illuminating our world in shades of grey, this light reveals something breathtaking, pure, new compared to the spectrums of day. Our moon shadows behind us, we bask in this rebel light.

The best part of New Hampshire forest is its remoteness; no noise or light pollution to disturb our brushes with nature. We decide stargazing is in order after a shooting star catches our eyes. Looking for the best spot, we come to caged tennis courts and slip through the gate. It is unlit. The ground still holds the warm of day.

My dad once told me about my uncle's travels through Europe. At some point, he could not find his way back to his hostel, so instead took to sleeping on the bench of a café instead. Without a pillow, he took a book of matches from his pocket and used that instead. Lying on my back, I channel him and cushion my head with a folded up bandana. The world is yours to sleep on, I feel this pillow say, unlocking the door to many beds ahead.

"This is so amazing," Allyssa whispers, palms pressed flat against the court.

For a single moment, anxiety shifts its weight onto my consciousness, begging me to scan for bears, wolves, and any other creatures that could ruin our night. But this fear sees the fence at least 12 feet high in every direction, and for the first time I see entrapment as potentially protective, not incarcerating. Anyway, if it is a cage, then we are the wild.

Focusing back on the sky, I sink into the concrete and let my attention loosen into the speckled, violet portrait above. At first they are two-dimensional, the stars, as though holes were poked in the cloak of the night enveloping us. I once imagined the world as God's eye and the night as his eyelid, blinking away another day.

As I meditate on the scene, the depths of this frontier suddenly melt from a flat map of dots to something infinitely deep, impossibly complex. The sky seems to radiate with light, reveal a deep map of naturally intricate design. Mother nature is an artist.

Like finding new love, I found the sky in that moment of acknowledgement. An appreciation I have never really had for it filled me, taught me of my tiny yet significant place in this world. My place, I suppose, is to see it, to bear witness.

After minutes go by, I break the silence of our group. "You know, if life forms did ever find us, all they would see is some loser planet sending out all these communications to no one in particular."

We laugh and agree. Rachel adds, "Yeah, there are probably a bunch of alien life forms out there that just ignore us. We're like that guy that everyone pretends to be busy around because he tries too hard."

"But at least we try." I whisper more than say.

After a while longer we leave our cage and bid each other goodnight, heading in separate directions towards our assigned cabins. I cannot help but glance at the sky now and again, still in awe of the new discovery.

To think all this time I had never truly seen what was right above me, something I am learning is too often the case. The truth is, we don’t know where we might find enlightenment. The beauty of being awoken is that we did not know we were sleeping in the first place. The night sky humbles me, makes me quiet on the inside.

Creeping into a cabin of sleeping kids, I slide into my bed and lie on my back once again, thoughts of the world dancing in my head, loving this loser planet.

Your weekend warrior,


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lisbeth Salander: A New Kind of Heroine

Popular opinion today is quick to demonize the media for perpetuating the gender dichotomy and unrealistic standards of beauty, among other infractions. We often label this industry as a type of moral machine, using its power to coerce its viewers into a singular standard of conduct. Lately it seems that the public has been “wising-up” and starting to reject media discourse and instead forge a new path for entertainment ethics. Therefore, is it possible to think that this widespread knowledge coupled with a changing social landscape may enact change when it comes to these depictions in the future?

After watching “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” this past week, my ill-formed and premature consensus was “yes”. My excitement over this new, progressive female narrative almost had me forgetting the current production of subliminal sexism that is being constantly churned out of publications such as Cosmopolitan or shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras” on a daily basis. Although maybe not the catalyst for a total revolution of Hollywood standards, this movie does promote a new archetype of the female protagonist while simultaneously rejecting representations of the overly-sexualized, submissive female character that has become the norm.

The film’s heroine, Lisbeth Salander, is depicted as an introverted computer hacker and a badass in her own right. However, her character is much more than just a blatant defiance of social and gender norms; her story is one of emancipation from the patriarchy. Although many have been quick to call Larsson’s graphic depiction of the abuse suffered by women at the hands of men in his novels inherently misogynist, he created Lisbeth’s character as a representation of strength for female readers. After witnessing a rape in his youth Larsson felt immense guilt for never helping the girl and so created Lisbeth’s character and her subsequent story as a platform to raise awareness about violence against women.

All things considered, the accounts of the characters within this film, although gritty and at times uncomfortably violent, create consciousness about issues that our society deems taboo. So far the majority of the dialogue surrounding the film after its release this month has been for the most part positive. Both gay activists and women’s rights groups have praised the film for its boldness; AfterEllen described Lisbeth to readers as “one of the strongest fictional female characters we've seen this decade”. Many others hope that this film and others like it that reject sexism and homophobia will begin an new outlook towards female and queer depictions in film and television. Hopefully the importance of this narrative will not fade as merely another counter-cultural cult film but rather a testament to the work that is being done to make women and queer people more visible in the media and a platform for future, inclusive rhetoric.