The oddness of optimism

I feel strange.

I’m in a good mood.

Just an hour ago, I was walking around Westwood to one of my favorite restaurants in the village, Mr. Noodle. I ordered chow mein and thai iced tea. While I waited for my food to be ready, I flipped through the latest issue of Wired and contemplated picking up some cookies at Diddy Riese next door. I nixed the idea when I realized that most of the people in my office are sick of sweets after having leftover deserts from a bunch of end of the year events.

I returned in my car to find my favorite song, “Las Flores” by Café Tacuba, playing. I forgot how much listening to Re (1994) made me happy. I began to get excited for their July 15th Hollywood Bowl concert and new album.

My day hasn’t been particularly special, I haven’t received any great news or accomplished anything spectacular. It’s actually pretty average, and yet I feel really good.

I feel happy.

I guess it feels weird, because I’ve been pretty unhappy lately. And those things are still lingering. My relationship is over; I didn’t get appointed to a position I wanted; I have tons of work to do in the next two weeks and little motivation to complete it. Despite that stuff, it’s not really bugging me. At least not today or right now.

I can just as easily think of all the things that have made me happy lately like celebrating my friend Greg’s 21st birthday (yeah, sometimes I hang out with the undergrads), my cousin Valerie and tía Josie’s co-birthday party in which we camped out in their backyard, my family’s upcoming trip to Cancún, briefly chatting with Chispa on Saturday at the Raza Youth Conference, The Office season 3, Jill Scott and Lupe Fiasco at UCLA’s JazzReggae Festival, Oiyan giving me props last night at my final Graduate Students Association Forum meeting as VP of External Affairs, and karaoke with some cool new friends.

Right now, I feel good. I feel optimistic.

Why is it so strange?

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Question of the week: Short/medium/long

I hate my current hairstyle. Really, there’s no style there. It’s just long and the dye job my mom did a few months ago is wearing out so my darker roots (and canas!) are showing. I don’t do much with my hair most days except for wash it and recently almost threw away my hairbrush. I stopped myself when I realized I might need to look presentable soon, and that my sister would get mad at me.

La pregunta: Which hairstyle should I go for next? (Feel free to use the photo for reference of what I look like with different hair lengths.)

Yes, I know I should make this decision on my own since I’ll have to live with my new hairstyle, but I’m pretty indecisive these days.

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cindy vs. dad

sunday uniform:
frilly lavender dress and
patent leather shoes

such a lovely look
ruined by a tear-stained face
and ear-splitting screams

young frazzled parents
struggled to calm lil’ cindy
they failed miserably

maybe it would stop
by the time they arrived home
her dad wondered, hoped

but cindy cried on
forgetting the denied cone
that sparked the tantrum

her mom suggested,
remember what mary said?
it can’t hurt to try

her dad just nodded,
kept his eyes on road ahead
tried to keep his cool

five minutes later
they pulled in to the driveway
with screaming daughter

her mom left the car
daddy stayed with his lil’ girl
she needed silence

back in the caprice,
the battle intensified
neither relenting

get out of the car,
he commanded his daughter
she kept on screaming

frustrated at last
he picked up his daughter and
marched in to the house

he passed his bedroom
where the leather belts were stored
they weren’t needed

his wife followed him
knowing his destination:
the hallway bathroom

cindy never stopped
not even when she found herself
clothed in the bathtub

dad turned the cold knob
cold drops rushed down and soaked her
but it didn’t work

as her dad sat stunned,
she howled, ¡mi vestidooooo!
and stomped in the tub

fearing his anger
he decided to just leave
he needed a drink

[Thanks to Kris for suggesting I write a story about my or someone else’s childhood in haiku format.]

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On loop

Torture is the wrong word for the situation, but it keeps coming to mind even though I doubt that the folks who wrote Article 17 of the Geneva Convention envisioned someone playing the same song on loop when they decided to outlaw torture against prisoners of war. Yes, I know. I’m not a prisoner of war, I’m just a lowly graduate student. However, if you had to hear Sean Paul’s “I’m Still in Love With You” at least three times every evening for the last two weeks, you’d be tempted to call it torture too.

My roommate, Adja, is not a bad person. In fact, Isa and I loved her when she first moved in. Not only did she pay rent on time, she also brought home pasta dinners from the Italian restaurant where she worked. However, we never asked her about her music taste when we interviewed her, if she played the music loud and if she ever got in a mood in which she played the same song over and over. Adja is still cool, she just doesn’t realize that the other inhabitants of apartment 3 don’t care much for Sean Paul.

***

On Friday evening, I put on my dancing shoes (slip-on black Rocket Dogs) and headed over to the Temple Bar for the Maneja Beto show. As soon as I entered the familiar Santa Monica lounge, I headed over to the bar and bought my usual bar/club drink, an amaretto sour. I then entered the room with the stage and took a seat at an empty table lining the west wall. I was alone, but it didn’t feel weird. I just sipped my drink and patiently waited for the band members to come out.

Everything felt fine until the resident DJ played a version of “I’m Still in Love With You” by someone else besides Sean Paul. It was less annoying, but I still felt like banging my head against the table, screaming and kicking someone. Yes, all at the same time.

The irony hit me.

Even when I tried to go out to enjoy music I like, I was still forced to listen to those lyrics. Maybe someone — my roommate, the DJ — wasn’t trying (albeit without knowing) to annoy me. Perhaps it was all just a grand effort by some higher power to make sure the words in the bouncy hook stay seared in my consciousness. Honestly, no one needs to try. Those words are stuck in my mind, and it has nothing to do with Sean Paul.

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Reviewing the Mexican

If you believe what Gustavo Arellano writes in ¡Ask a Mexican!, Mexican immigrants’ hometown ties go a long way. For some recent immigrants, it means you get a job or place to crash while you get settled in the states. For Arellano, it meant that I bought his book. Yeah, I enjoy his column (when I get the chance to read it) but I also think it’s cool that our families are connected to the same pueblito in Zacatecas, El Cargadero.

¡Ask a Mexican! is a quick read, and follows the same format as his syndicated weekly column: an inquirer with a clever alias poses a question about Mexicans; Arellano answers with either (a) a satirical response full of humor and jabs at everyone, (b) a serious response, complete with citations of academic journals and books, or (c) a combination of both. The questions are divided by similar topics such as sexo, fashion, language, inmigración and music. Along with the short questions and answers, Arellano also includes some short essays expanding on topics that puzzle non-Mexicans and Mexicans alike. Even after reading the essay on Mexicans’ affinity for Morrissey, I’m still not sure I get it (and I like Morrissey/the Smiths!).

Although one can find many of the questions/answers in ¡Ask a Mexican! by simply going through the archives at the OC Weekly, you’d be missing out on the true strength of the book: the essays. I find this ironic considering that Arellano’s rise to popularity came from the Ask a Mexican column yet his true talent as a writer shines through in the essays. The essays show a side of Arellano you don’t get from the caricature answering the weekly questions. Through the essays, I learned about the unconventional method he, his cousin and friends used to stay out of trouble as teenagers, what it was like to be an embedded jornalero, and just how Mexican The Simpsons really are.

I like the questions/answers too, but I’ve read many of them and they’re less funny the second time. In addition, I can’t take too much of the raunchy humor Arellano employs to answer many of the questions sent to “the Mexican.” Yeah, I’m a bit prudish, and there were times when I reacted in a “he said/wrote/did what?!” manner. I’m sure I blushed a couple of times while reading. I can deal with a couple of the Mexicans’ questions/answers a week, but 200 odd pages is pushing my good girl limits.

If you’re looking for some light reading this summer, I’d recommend ¡Ask a Mexican!. Despite the colorful language and constant jabs at Guatemalans, you can learn something from the Mexican even if you’ve spent years around Mexicans and studied the topics he tackles in the book. I’m not just saying this because I want to support someone with roots in El Cargadero, but because I genuinely enjoy Arellano’s writing and think it’s important to laugh at ourselves and our community while simultaneously debunking racist myths with witty one-liners.

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