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NaNoWriMo October 31, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Who Am I?.
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I’m doing it this month!  November is National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of November.

I’m pretty sure that the novel is supposed to be fiction, but me and Da Roolz never danced anything but a psychedelic jitterbug.  I don’t have a fictional story in mind right now, so instead I’ll be writing my memoirs.  I want to get a feel for what 50,000 words really feels like.  I’ve also been reading a lot of autobiographical stories, like Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors and Dry and the memories of food critiquing at the New York Times by Ruth Reichl, and maybe I can do some fictionalization and produce something like their novels.

Wish me luck!  I’m thinking this trip down memory lane will feel a lot like regurgitation, but the healthy kind.  Here I head down the peristaltic journalistic roller coaster.   Wish me luck!

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My Life Defined, Part II August 16, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Dad, Individualism, Who Am I?.
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Some more memories to catalog…

My First Political Awakening:  It must have been 1984.  I would have been starting the third grade.  Of course, it was an election year and my elementary school was doing mock elections.  I grew up in a particularly military-heavy community, so most everyone’s parents were conservative Republicans and adamantly pro-Reagan.  A classmate asked me who I was going to vote for.

“Reagan,” I said, without a thought.   Then, she asked me a question that changed something in me.

“Why?”

The words started coming out of my mouth before I could stop them, and I remember the thought process as if the sentence was being diagrammed as I spoke it.  I knew as I spoke that I WAS WRONG.

“Because that’s who…my…dad…would….vote…for.”

Then it was crystal clear.   I was NOT my dad.  I was ME, and I was about to do something that had been drilled in my head was my SPECIAL RIGHT as an American.  I was going to vote, and I knew that it should be meaningful.  My answer was horrible.  An interest in politics was born.

I started paying attention to the six o’clock news, which was always on when my dad was home.  This was well before the age of twenty-four hour news networks, back when you read the morning news in the paper over coffee and caught the nightly broadcast before Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!  I started asking questions about the broadcasts, about Presidential speeches and national news.  Then I’d question my dad’s answers.  Dad took these questions as arguments, and would eventually answer my questions with this awful phrase:

“One of these days, Kristina, you’ll realize that you’re wrong and I’m right.”

I am thirty years old, and to this day, my dad considers my political preferences to be nothing more than rebellion against his superior ideology.   The fact that I am a liberal progressive today has much more to do with an abiding interest in creating a society I believe is good, not nostalgia for a society that never existed except in the minds of 50’s TV scriptwriters.

My First Awareness of Racial Differences:  My best friend growing up was the girl who lived next door.  Her name was Tracy, and she was three years older than I was.  She had an AMAZING collection of Barbie dolls, Barbie toys, Barbie clothes…baskets and baskets full.  We played Barbies together every day on the walkway in front of my house.

One day, I decided to ask her a question that had been sitting in my head for a few weeks.  “Tracy,” I asked as I changed my Barbie’s clothes, “what’s it like to be black?”

She gave me a funny look.  “You’re not white,”  she said, and that was her entire answer.

Looking back, I can’t believe how much her answer shocked me.  My dad has blonde hair and blue eyes.  My mom is from the Philippines.  I had never thought of myself as anything BUT white.  I remember looking down at my arm and SEEING, for the first time, that my skin was really not white, but a deep tan from playing outside all summer.

Sure, I had grown up listening to my mom speak Tagalog to her friends, and to my mom and dad speak Tagalog at dinner when they wanted to keep something from us.  Yeah, my favorite foods were lumpia and pancit, and my favorite bedtime story was my dad’s version of Brunettelocks, where Goldilocks turned into an “Ay, ‘sus!” exclaiming, change-the-f’s-to-p’s talking scatterbrained Pinoy.  But all this was COMPLETELY NORMAL.

I think a huge part of my perceived whiteness stemmed from NOT being members of the Roman Catholic church.  Filipino households, to me, were like holy sanctuaries in and of themselves.  Gilt-enhanced paintings of The Virgin Mary and The Sacred Heart were ubiquitous in every Filipino household, as were statues of Mary looking down while standing in a fountain and omnipresent candles burning behind stickers of Jesus on tall glass canisters.  Oh, and there was the vinegary smell of fried fish that permeated the air in most Filipino houses.  Not ours.

The other part of my whiteness came from having an extremely ordinary name.  The Filipina girls I knew were named Rummalee and Cinderella, Madonna and Natividad.  They had last names like Macapagal, Abacahin, de la Cruz, and Santos.

Who, especially me, would have pegged Kristina Brown as a Filipina??

I thought I was going to uncover some great secret about Blackness; instead, I discovered my obvious Brownnness.

Do This In Remembrance of Me June 27, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Individualism, Who Am I?.
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If there’s one creepy common denominator among Christian religions, it’s the seriousness with which they regard that cannibalistic grape-juice-and-saltine ritual called Communion.  In the Fundamentalist Evangelical church I grew up in, if a person did not confess all the sin in his or her heart prior to partaking in Communion, sanguinary punishments lurked in the participant’s near future like Donkey Kong shooting up steroids behind a barrel, ready to decimate the physical body of the otherwise devout believer neatly and completely.  I found Communion terrifying as a child, and I was torn between the disappointment of my parents and everyone else in the church watching me refuse Communion because there might have been a moment that I thought my sister was a jerk that I forgot to confess, and braving the wiles of a hopped up Jesus, ready to destroy me with maggots in my muscles for daring to eat of his body and drink of his blood with a fleeting yet unconfessed moment of sibling derision still lingering in my heart.

The ritual was always the same.  The round double-decker silver plate, with the handle that doubled as a decorative cross, was passed around, filled with dry matzoh wafers.  It was explained that yeast, or leaven, represented sin (How?  Does sin eat the sugar in your soul and fart CO2 bubbles to make you rise until you’re light and fluffy?  I never got that part.) and so therefore the body of Jesus had to be broken from a big flat cracker.  I remember for a time, we attended a Southern Baptist Church that forbade the women from wearing pants, but used Wonder Bread for Communion.  I, and many others from my original church, refused to take Communion, Wonderous though the Bread may have been.  As the last parishoners took their crumb of the Savior, the pastor would recite I Corinthians 11:24:  This is my body, which is broken for you.  Take, eat, and do this in remembrance of me.

Consumer Christianity.  Literally.  But what if Communion was productive?  Wouldn’t that make it better?

I was thinking about this ritual earlier this week.  I took a short trip back to my hometown to visit my friend Ryan.  We stayed at his mother’s house, which is in the same neighborhood where I went to junior high school.   I once asked him where he went when he was feeling reflective, and he mentioned that he walked to the school, which was around the corner from his mom’s house.

I had my own memories of my junior high years, but most of those involved not so much the building or my friends, but my walk to and from school.  I lived in a different neighborhood, about a mile and a half away from the school, and it was the decision I made one day when I was twelve to stop taking the bus that was the crux in my life Robert Frost wrote about.

I was about halfway through the eighth grade.  I had just moved to this middle class neighborhood from a lower class neighborhood where my next door neighbor’s dad had shot someone in the middle of the day, where perpetually knocked-up Navy wives sat in lawn chairs, mesmerised by despair, watching their Aryan brood spill chaos, like the toxic substances oozing over rashes from their unchanged diapers, across the neighbors’ lawns, where boys in wifebeaters stuck gappers in carburetors while their teenage Puerto Rican girlfriends danced pantiless on the roofs of their cars to strains of Madonna.

The girls I grew up with in Rosemont Forest wasted afternoons with their brothers watching mommy dogs devour half their new litters of wormy puppies if their families were good, and fought their horny brothers off with lots of determination but not much success if their families were not so good.  This was the neighborhood where I smoked my first cigarette, had my heart broken for the first time, and sat, enthralled, in my neighbor’s stepdad’s spare room devoted entirely to his collection of Playboys, surrounded by airbrushed centerfolds displaying their curvily scribbled turn-ons.  Our Barbies didn’t go to prom; they went straight to where Ken and Skipper were parked and popped the cheating bitch’s head clean off with one violent tug to the ponytail.

But my dad finally got promoted to Chief Petty Officer, and with that promotion came the decision to move the family to a bigger house in a better neighborhood.  The home they chose was zoned in the same school zone, but it might as well have been another country.

The girls in my new neighborhood wouldn’t have known how to handle themselves in a fistfight, but they could insult each other into little puddles of tears with casual ease.  Their clothes bore no hint of iron-ons, their mothers actually drew the hearts in their Skippy sandwiches, and their musical tastes were, in a word, banal.  On my new block (no longer a block, mind you, but a cul-de-sac), the band of choice, the unwavering standard of Cooooool, was The New Kids on the Block.

I could have given a shit about the New Kids on the Block.  This branded me, more than any other aspect of my personality, as Weird.   However, I was not tough like the girls I grew up with, the girls who could kick ass.  I was a reader, not a fighter.  So I had no idea what to do when the girls in my new neighborhood started choosing up sides in their New Kids Pubescent Sexual Fantasy League, and tried to coerce me into participating.  It was completely foreign to me.

“Mark would never love you,” they’d spit at each other, their words like Atomic Fireballs of Truth and Passion.  “And how can you think Jordan is the cutest?  Joey is so much cuter.  And he loves me, not you, you slimy cuntfinger.”

It would amaze me how hurtful those words could be to these girls–not the slimy cuntfinger part, but the “he loves me, not you” part.  They’d hate each other in the morning, write a blizzard of notes folded into factory-building shaped origami establishing allegiances,  go to war in the cafeteria in the afternoon,  then choose up sides again and do it again on the bus ride home.   It was like watching expensive cars crash, over and over and over again.  However, I was not amused by disposable dignity.

One morning, as I was approaching the bus stop, dreading the inevitable pull to choose sides in a battle I cared nothing for, something about the nasty chatter just kicked at my heart.  I decided to keep walking. I ignored the calls advising me that I was an idiot, that I missed the bus stop, Hell-looooo?  I walked a mile and a half to school, and it was the most peaceful morning ever.

That afternoon, I decided to walk home.  A few weeks later, I got a brand new Walkman, and that was it.  I never rode the bus again.  Every day I’d walk to school to the strains of music I liked.  Better the exuberance of Bette Midler singing “Miss Otis Regrets” than the intellectually toxic and pheromonally manipulated New Kids shit.

I loved that walk.  Aside from learning to ride my ten-speed, it was probably the most liberating thing in the world for me.  I felt like I flipped a great silent bird to convention and walked on in freedom.  I loved that walk so much, I either walked or rode my bike to school all the way through the eleventh grade, where the trip was about a mile longer.

It didn’t take much convincing, but last Sunday I talked my friend into walking from the junior high back to my old house with me.  I have never walked all the way home with anyone, so it was a little weird for me to have conversation where I once had They Might Be Giants’ Flood album.  As we walked, the streets took on an animated quality, with those things that had not changed taking on the quiet background peace of an Impressionist painting while the new features of the landscape stood out in sharp Fauvist relief, begging to be touched, noticed, appreciated…

We stopped at my parents’ old house and chatted for a while with a new neighbor, but it wasn’t the house that I retook the walk for.  It was for the physical memory of the walk, the memory of the roots of my individualism; it was out of respect for those things that I wanted to repeat the after-school ritual.  It is eighteen years later, and I want to feel a communion with the girl I was and maybe find something of the strength it took her to say Fuck You to those things she could not live with, to find her own beautiful way of dealing with what Tom Robbins calls “the tyranny of the dull mind.”

I found a flower bulb in the middle of the street on the way back and put it in my pocket.  I think I can make it grow here in the desert.  Grow, bloom, and flourish, in remembrance of me.

Nerdcore Games Junkie June 15, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Academia, Servittude, Who Am I?.
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Wednesday was another day in the life of an eggslinger.  It was the lunch shift, and I had a dull station on a slow day.  The customers were dull and unwilling to engage with me, and so the minutes ticked by like time slogging through syrup.

The hostess sat a single woman at the center deuce in my station.  (I can’t find a decent Restaurant Slang page on Google, so I’ll let those of you outside the biz know that a deuce is a table that seats only two people.)  I noticed the woman was doing a magazine with Sudoku puzzles.  I am a big fan of mathematical puzzles, but Sudoku seems so trendy right now that I tend to shun those in favor of more classic challenge puzzles.   This doesn’t mean I won’t solve Sudokus, just that I’d pick up a Variety Puzzles magazine over Super Sudoku! any day.

This led me to think about a quote in a book I read by Anne Tyler called Ladder of Years.  The main character leaves her comfortable, predictible life one day and, on the spur of the moment, hitches a ride to an unfamiliar town where she sets up a new life for herself without informing her family.  It is an incredibly well-told story, where feminist ideas just ARE:  not pushy, not a betrayal, not bitchy or political; just the idea of a woman not having to answer to a husband and grown children she no longer feels a responsibility for and following her own whims for the first time.

Anyhow, in the book a big deal is made over the observation that a woman is rarely, if ever, seen eating alone in a restaurant without a book or a magazine.  As a woman who has done a lot of eating alone in restaurants, and a woman who has worked in many restaurants, and a woman who loves to read, I have found this hypothesis fascinating.  I have eaten out alone with and without books, and I have watched women eating alone in restaurants, and I have to say that Tyler’s observation is for the most part accurate…except for the past few years, when cell phones have replaced books as the single woman’s distraction.

Anyhow, I greeted the woman and took her order.  Ironically, she ordered almost exactly what I would have ordered had I found myself lunching at my restaurant for the first time:  an order of crab cakes and a glass of La Crema chardonnay.  I commented on this and smiled, partly out of standard waitress banter but mostly out of a sort of happy self-recognition.

A good server will walk by a table three or four times during the course of a customer’s meal.  S/he won’t necessarily say anything and may not even be noticed, but the server’s presence on the floor is vital to reading and anticipating customer needs and upping sales.  As I was walking past my customer’s table, I noticed she had moved on to a different page in her magazine.  The typeface on the page was cheerfully familiar, and it stunned me for a second.  I had to make an unscheduled stop at her table.

“Excuse me,” I asked.  “Is that….Games Magazine you’re reading?”

She smiled and showed me the magazine cover.  It was Games.

Games Magazine has been my favorite periodical ever since I was about eight years old.  As a child, I attended the Old Donation School for the Gifted and Talented in my hometown, and it was that school that taught me to love clever puzzles.  Word puzzles, number puzzles, logic puzzles, pop culture puzzles, picture puzzles…all were fair game, as long as they were challenging and threw in an egregious amount of bad puns for good measure.

Games went out of print for a few years, and I remember being happily surprised when I saw it again on a magazine stand in my mid teens.  I buy it whenever I see it, but I have realized that in the past few years, my trips to the bookstore have gotten further and farther between and I have not picked up an issue of Games probably since my early twenties.

As if my question about the magazine she was reading didn’t have the dork-identifying tone of voice that most people reserve for impossibly valuable art, cars, or cocaine, I had to let her know how I identified her choice of reading material.

“You know how I knew that was Games?”  I crowed idiotically.  (wait for it…..wait for it….)  “I recognized the typeface.”

Yeah, I actually said it.  I am about as groooovy as they come.

Luckily for me, she was as enthusiastic as I was about the magazine, and invited me to help her finish a puzzle she had been working on.  Ah, bliss.  I solved the one that had snagged her, then attempted to finish the puzzle while standing at the table.  I got all but two right away.  What a bonus!

We only chatted for a minute, but I was thrilled to talk with a fellow woman (how’s that for an oxymoron?) interested in puzzle solving.  I told her I’d blog about the experience.

Oh, yeah.  Nerd-core.

But guess who gets to wake up every morning, excitedly anticipating the arrival of her first subscription issue of Games Magazine in the mail?…

Why I Want To Be A Teacher June 14, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Academia, Who Am I?.
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Here’s an essay I wrote today for admission to the College of Education at Nevada State College.

Why I Want to Be A Teacher, by Kristina Raisinbran

There is a real and contagious condition that a child must be infected with in order to understand what it is to be a success in life.  This condition is called a Love of Learning, and I am a firm believer in its communicability.  I am also afflicted with this condition, and I want to become a teacher in order to expose as many children as possible to its life-changing side-effects, including a passion for asking questions and finding answers, an awareness of the underlying beauty in the world, a zest for the written and spoken word, and a desire to be a contributing member of a progressive society aimed at cultivating the greater good.

There is a tremendous need to reach a community of children who face tough challenges in almost every aspect of their public lives.  These are the children of our immigrant community.  Many of these children are uprooted without warning from their comfortable home countries, where they were surrounded by the friends and family who have been constant figures in their lives since birth, and taken on frightening journeys into the United States, where they live lives of social isolation.  They do not speak the language and are shunned by their American peers, and because of the risks of deportation are not allowed far from the home.  Their poverty and differentness are brought into sharp contrast with their schoolmates’ new wardrobes and fancy Lunchables.

I received my Associate’s degree in Florida, where I saw firsthand the challenges the immigrant child faces, especially in regards to standardized testing.  These students were taught just enough English to get a job at McDonalds, since passing a state-level English proficiency test meant they qualified to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.  Teachers did not want these students taking the FCAT, since their lower scores would bring down the school’s grade and therefore cut the school’s funding.  I watched these children in academic limbo, being babysat in computer labs but not being taught English at a level where they would be competitive in any but the lowest of service industry jobs.

These are bright children, with interests like any other child’s.  These are children who are reachable, but they must be approached by someone whom they can trust, who doesn’t bore them, and who has clear rules and expectations.  I am multilingual.  I play guitar and draw passably.  I have a deep interest in science, theatre, and the arts. I am not afraid of classroom discipline.  And I know I can make learning fun.  My students and I would all walk out of my classroom better people.

I had the great fortune of being taught by three incredible langauge teachers.  John Mueller, my first German teacher, taught me the difference between speaking a language and communicating in one.  Leonid Kobyljanec, my Russian teacher,  taught me to value cultural differences and to have a tremendous amount of fun with incredibly difficult subject matter.  Antonio Spezia di Montespina, my Italian professor, taught me to immerse myself in language body and soul through exposure to his analysis of how Italians think based on their Roman history.  I’d use all the tools these teachers have graciously equipped me with and more in order to give these children a lesson in a subject they’ll never be formally taught: the value of intellectual freedom.

My life, defined: Part I June 9, 2007

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A catalog of self-defining moments:

MY FIRST MEMORY: It’s late 1978, the beginning of the hot season in the Philippines and the end of the rainy season. I’m about a year and a half old and suffering from prickly heat. I’m lying on my stomach, wearing a cloth diaper. My dad is rubbing cool talcum powder into my back, attempting to ease the itching, and singing the song “Dixie.” This is the first thing I remember, and it makes me wonder if this was my first memory of love: comforting touch and cheerful music.

MY FIRST HEAD TRAUMA: It’s spring of 1980 and I live in a rented house on base in Guam. My mother has never cut my hair, and it is very long and shiny black. My mother has warned me about jumping on her bed, but I love the forbidden adventure. She has a seventies-green faux velvet bedspread with tassles fringing the edges. Bouncing on this fuzzy bedspread is a tactile pleasure. I flop onto my back and crack my head against the corner of my mother’s hardwood nightstand. I scream and cry and run for my mother. I find her, and she asks me if I’ve been jumping on the bed. I confess. She scolds me for a few minutes, then sends me to my room. I turn to take my punishment, and remember hearing my mother scream. My back is soaked in blood.

I am rushed to the military hospital. The doctors decide that, instead of shaving my head, examining the injury, and giving me stitches, that they are going to appeal to vanity and instead simply tie my hair in a knot over the wound and send me home with an inflated latex glove to play with. I actually suffered a skull fracture which was never subsequently examined, and I have a two inch dent in my head for the rest of my life. I entertain the idea of visiting a phrenologist occasionally, but in seriousness I wonder if this injury changed me or my perceptive ability in any way. I have an irrational fear of jumping on trampolines that has lasted into my thirties.

MY FIRST YEAR OF SCHOOL: It’s fall of 1981 and my dad has been stationed in Virginia. We live within walking distance of the elementary school, and as my mother walks me to the school I remember being impressed by the crossing guard. After a few weeks of kindergarten, my mother gets a phone call from Mrs. Dorey, my kindergarten teacher. Yes, I remember her name. Mrs. Dorey tells my mother that she doesn’t think I belong in kindergarten. My mother asks if I need to be held back. Mrs. Dorey says no, she means that she thinks I would be more suited to the first grade. My father is out to sea and so my mother writes him a letter and waits for him to make a call through the ham radio operator to discuss moving me up. They decide it would be a good idea, and so I am moved into the first grade classroom.

A week or so of first grade, and my mother gets another phone call. It is Mrs. Sears, my first grade teacher. Yes, I remember her name, too. Mrs. Sears tells my mother she doesn’t think I belong in the first grade. My mother is worried that I am suffering in the first grade, and lets Mrs. Sears know it won’t be a problem to move me back to kindergarten. “No, Mrs. Brown,” says Mrs. Sears. “I think she belongs in second grade.”

So my mother writes another letter and waits a few weeks for my father to call. This time, they decide to keep me in the first grade. They fear the social struggles I will have as a five year old in a class of seven year olds and beyond.

At my high school graduation, I joke that I’m the only senior who should have been a junior AND should have graduated already. I never felt socially awkward about being the youngest female in my class, but all my friends post high school have been, on average, a decade or more older than I and I married a man eighteen years older than I am. I wonder how significant age is to me subconsciously.

Jump on my FM June 6, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Music, Who Am I?.
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Click LAUNCH STANDALONE PLAYER to hear some of my favorite music in the background!

 

Right now, there is not a good code for WordPress, so I’m using the MySpace code, which is why this looks a little weird. As soon as the Project Playlist people update their codes, I’ll plug in the right one.

Don’t Challenge Him May 30, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Dad, Jesusitis, Who Am I?.
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My dad and I didn’t always have a rocky relationship. I learned to question from him. I learned to love math and science, German and literature, bluegrass and classical, the pleasures of hard work and the pride of supporting the underdogs of society, all from my dad. Then somehow we got parabolaed, and instead of zooming along, parallel to his life and experiences, we collided head-on and sped off, Newtonian, in equal and opposite directions. And oh, how opposite.

The point we bent around was Christianity. He found Jesus and his followers, warts and all. I found it all repulsive, angels and all. And that point is beating his plowshare into a sword, and my sword into a plowshare.

Our views on Christianity color our relationship like green mold on a vivid yellow lemon. I cannot really fathom what he thinks of me and my empirical approach to life, although I do know from the analogies he uses that he thinks I personally am dangerous to all he holds dear. Our last discussion turned ugly as he threatened to use his gun against me and “all my liberal ilk.” The prompting for this death threat? My body language. He didn’t like how I held my wine glass when I talked hard science back to his pseudoscience.

We can’t have any kind of discussion. Everything leads back to fags, liberals, and…well, fags and liberals mostly. He follows the Fundamentalist Christian Party Line like it was handed down from his Master Chief. I can’t understand how someone who understands a concept like Chain of Command so thoroughly won’t understand a simple evolutionary flowchart.

My uncle, who is also my dad’s older brother, had a few quiet moments with me at my niece’s birthday party last week. I know my dad talks to my uncle, and I also know that Dad was either avoiding me at the birthday party or he was genuinely interested in what was going on outside. Anyhow, my uncle started by identifying with me. He told me he was a Democrat, and that there were just things he didn’t say anything about in conversation with my dad. He said he respects my dad and the decisions he’s made, and so he just doesn’t say anything about anything political. Then, he quietly urged me to do the same. “Respect him,” said my uncle, “don’t challenge him.”

And therein lies my current family dilemma. I don’t argue with my dad to prove my intellectual superiority, or to strip him of his religious beliefs, or to get my Freudian rocks off. I argue with my dad because I love him, and I hate to see him fight with the deliberate stupidity with which his pastor arms him. I know my dad is better than that. I know this, because he was my teacher whom I did respect.

That’s probably the best analogy I can come up with. Let’s pretend you had a favorite teacher in school who taught, say, English. The teacher taught you to love English, to love language and to care about the words you choose, to devour books that are worth spending time with and to be able to recognize the flaws and the greatness of a piece of literature. Then, one day, the teacher (who had always spoken Pig Latin as a hobby) decides she wants to speak nothing but Pig Latin for the rest of her life. Okay, yes, you respect her decision as an intelligent adult to be a speaker of Pig Latin, but that doesn’t make her decision any less ignoble.

So fine, my dad wants to take some guy’s interpretation of a holy book and base his whole worldview on it. Even when the facts prove his worldview is seriously flawed. Now, if this were someone you loved, what would you do? It would be easy to brush him aside, to say “whatever” and change the subject to the weather and everyone’s health.

I love my uncle. I love my dad. And I just can’t do it.

I can’t sit quietly while he spouts off about how ridiculous it is to spend tax money on education. I can’t sit quietly while he makes up or quotes bizarre information. I can’t sit quietly while he praises Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in one breath and calls young black men “coons” in the next. I can’t sit quietly while he mischaracterizes the context of every political issue his pastor finds important enough to preach about.

I don’t bring up anything remotely religous or political around him. That’s as far as I can go. But, as my dad himself taught me, it does no good to limp alongside a lame man. My mistake is in thinking that the facts will convince him, but really the only thing that will convince him is for tragedy to strike him right where the pastor says it shouldn’t hurt.

I only hope he’s not aiming his real-life guns at me when tragedy strikes.

I fell in love for twenty minutes… May 29, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Individualism, Who Am I?.
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At first, it wasn’t that she was fifties pin-up gorgeous. I work in Las Vegas, and see beautiful, confident women every minute of every day at the casino where I work. It was the spiraling march of letters and punctuation that snaked around her upper arm like an Egyptian bracelet, black as her hair, that snagged one of my heartbeats and claimed it for their own.

She was chatting with the bartender, her smile so big her molars winked at me while her eyes were elsewhere. I was dressed in the unstylish all-black drab anonywaitron uniform that sucks away personality faster than prison stripes. There was a break in the bartender’s flirtatious conversation, and I grabbed it.

“I couldn’t help but notice your tattoo,” I began, my own originality spiraling away in the black void of the uniform. “What does it mean?”

She smiled, and this time her teeth full on and literally blinded me with science. “It’s a mathematical formula explaining how heat and light are transferred as energy in the atmosphere.”

‘Wow!” I said, and I walked away. I wanted her to know that I thought it was the most interesting tattoo I had ever seen in my life, and to see it on someone so achingly gorgeous was tantamount to an Old Testament miracle. It was like she’d walked straight out of Douglas Adams’ brain and into my bar. I didn’t want her to think that I was some random table-waiting idiot, and I wanted quite badly for her just to talk to me some more.

I totally forgot what I was walking away to do. I know I was busy, but at that point I could have had hoardes of angry customers snapping their fingers and glaring at me, giving me the “Miss!!” hiss, and I would have been just as oblivious. I walked back over to her.

“Did you get that just to piss off the people who think global warming is happening because they think the sun is getting hotter?” I asked her. I think it was the right thing to say. It sparked a conversation.

“You know, I never expected my tattoo to be so political,” she confided in me. I felt like I was swimming in caramel; warm and gooey inside and outside. “I used to be a physicist, and this was a formula I used often. I wanted an original tattoo, and I’ve never met anyone who has one like this.”

I knew how she felt. On a much more superficial level, I have three earring holes in one ear and one in the other. I have always wanted to meet someone else with the same combo. The closest I’ve come is a dear friend who has three in one and none in the other, and when I found that out it just made me feel closer to him kinshipwise, even though it’s a very silly club to belong to.

When she said that, I knew I was out of her league. I knew there was someone out there with a tattoo that would blow HER mind, and that would be it for her. But it never hurts to flirt, right? So I replied to her, “I’d like to get an Infinity Cat in my armpit one day.” Maybe not the best sentence to offer to further a flirtation, but I had a feeling she’d get it. I was right. It made her smile.

“You should!” she encouraged me. We chatted for a minute about global warming. It was weird for me to actually have a conversation with someone who agrees with the science I’ve read. Most of my conversations about global warming end up being debates. It made me feel awkward, like all of a sudden she started stripping off her black-and-white spaghetti strap dress. She showed me a little bit of her mind, and it was breathtaking.

I had to walk away. What was I going to do? I’m an unhappily married woman, and she was just driving a spike of fascination into my heart that I couldn’t bear to be driven in one more time. One more interesting conversational tidbit from her and I’d start falling into insanity. Life would stop making sense.

I retreated to the other end of the bar to fold napkins. I watched her intermittently. Two of my fellow waiters started chatting her up. Neither of them can use a sentence without calling the person they’re talking to “Dog.” She was having a great time talking to them, laughing at their jokes and making witty comments at their conversation. Then she was gone, off to attend a friend’s wedding, then back on a plane to Massachusetts.

I’m a pretty girl myself. I’m not shy, and I have a big laugh. I think I’m pretty smart, and a good conversationalist. And my body, while not her caliber, is really not bad. I’m no bloated egotist, but I think I’ve created an interesting person out of the life I get to live. I wonder if I’ve ever made anyone fall in love for twenty minutes?

I remember her, and I’m happy.

“There are only two mantras… yum and yuk. Mine is yum.” May 3, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Who Am I?.
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Nice one, Tom.

I’m no Buddhist, but you must have a mantra even if you don’t call it as such. I have two.

One is quite lengthy, but it serves to calm my nerves when I go into a panic or become overwhelmed with some other pesky emotion like anger, frustration, or worry. It’s the entirety of The Nations of the World as sung by Yakko Warner of Animaniacs fame. My co-workers know more about geography than any other waitstaff on the planet.

The other is much simpler. It’s sijadasi. That’s the word Yes in each of the five foreign languages I’ve studied: Spanish, German, Russian, Italian, and American Sign Language. Two notes about its pronunciation:

1. It is pronounced with your clenched fist raised to shoulder level, thumb across your knuckles, and your wrist flexing up and down. If this confuses you, go back and read the list of languages one more time.

2. Its verbal pronunciation is exactly the same as the words “Sea Odyssey,” one of my flimsy romantic fantasies, flimsy because I get seasick faster than the fastest peristaltic roller coaster letting loose with its sour alimentary volleys.

So here begins my personal sijadasi, the spill of my thoughts dislodged by symbolic mantric chanting.

Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm……………………………………