Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Friday, July 4, 2014
Out of sheer determination, I found a parking spot near the beach. Then Matt found a perfect spot: a big tree on a bluff overlooking the lake. Hardly anyone around, save a grouchy old woman who informed us gruffly, "this is private property."
But she didn't ask us to leave, and soon she tottered downhill to join some others while I cuddled Taz and Matt cuddled me and the big tree hovered behind us.
We stayed until Taz cried when the fireworks got too loud. Then we got in the car and careened carefully through the neighborhood full of mothers pushing strollers, teenagers exchanging phone numbers ("OMG you should text Josh!" screeched one girl), and children wrapped in towels, hair glistening wet in the moonlight, holding gold sparklers like wands in their pudgy hands.
We happened upon the most perfect spot during the fireworks finale, right over an architecturally gorgeous house and next to the dark river.
It was spectacular. The little girl behind us shrieked in that joyous way one can shriek when you spend all day at the beach and all night watching fire in the sky past bedtime, and summer stretches for ages and forever.
It was perfect.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Dear Food Guy:
You were fat. You aren't anymore. You lost weight. Good for you. It's a hard, never-ending battle struggling with food issues.
But don't forget you were fat. And someday, you might get tired of fighting that uphill battle. You might get fat again. Or maybe not.
Either way: never forget you were fat. Never forget how complete strangers would point at you and make hurtful comments. Remember the way your friends and family try to be "helpful" with their advice, even though it always ends up making you want to just die.
What kind of person encourages someone to commit suicide because they are overweight? Apparently, you. You, who for years struggled with your own weight.
Go get professional help. You clearly have self-loathing issues that you project on others who once looked just like you in the mirror.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The mother of a classmate passed away after battling cancer. It wasn't my first experience with death. By the time I was in primary school the lights had dimmed absolutely for my grandfather, two cousins, an uncle and my dog.
But this was the first time I picked up a notebook and recorded my thoughts. It was my first real poem. I think it probably rhymed, which is an unfortunate crime only excusable when you're under the age of eighteen, and it was likely not very clever or original.
But it gave me a power I didn't realize was inside of me. I could capture the world around me, like a photograph. This is how life is happening through my eyes. Which is something I struggle with to this day. When I try to recap an event, there is always an identity crisis: am I journalist or am I a storyteller?
People in our lifetime will always want to say where they were on September 11, 2001. They want to walk through every second of that Tuesday morning, every step, every movement, leading up to the first plane piercing the first tower, as though it was our own minute choices collectively that added up to the tragedy. "It's like JFK," my father says with a knowing sadness in his voice, "everyone remembers exactly where they were when he was shot."
And others will tell you how they felt. "I was shocked."
"I was terrified."
"My son lived in New York, he was doing an internship. I called and called but the lines were jammed. I thought I was going to be sick."
"My cousin worked in D.C. My aunt was freaking out."
"Let's just bomb the fuck out of the Middle East."
The last line was me. September 12, 2001.
I admit: I was shocked. I was terrified. Just like everyone else living in the United States of America. I didn't understand and I didn't have the patience to try. We were all angry on September 12, 2001. I remember typing these words as rapidly as they exploded in my mind. I wrote to my good friend Dirk in Australia.
He reminded me that there were millions of innocent people in the Middle East who didn't deserve to get blown up. Just like everyone in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the planes didn't deserve to suffer and die.
Later, he would point out that while many Americans were burning the Koran, it was becoming a best-seller around the world. Some choose to turn their back and hate, others seek answers.
That's not where I want to go today.
The real reason for my anger was not just fueled by the terrorists who attacked on that certain Tuesday.
I was furious with my own country.
For the whole of my life, which at that point was twenty years, I had been told that America was the Greatest Country on Earth. We were the last Super Power. People all over the world turned to us--for refuge, for hope, for liberty and justice for all.
Soldiers gave their lives gladly for us, fighting bravely and falling gallantly in wars which we always won and which were always fought fairly, with justification. We were heroes to all and righteousness was on our side.
Every day before class, I would put my hand on my heart and pledge allegiance to a country that would never allow us to be hurt because we were invincible. Pearl Harbor? That was a lifetime ago, and so far away, in a place so foreign, in Hawaii.
That would never happen to us here on the mainland. No one would dare attack us and we would always be free.
I grew up knowing we were invincible. That I could walk confidently under a sunny sky without worry that a bomb would drop.
Of course, this was naive and indicative of total historical ignorance on my part. We had Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the Cold War, schools shootings, domestic terrorism (the Oklahoma City bombing) not to mention Osama bin Laden had tried with less success to blow up the World Trade Center back in the 1990s.
I turned the other way, because I simply believed in our country's invincibility. I was more than happy to believe it because I had no reason to see it any other way.
I am not a journalist. This I know, deep inside myself. I live in constant observation but without objectivity. This will always be my story, my photograph among millions of others. I will always feel through my eyes and see through my heart, and I am not going to take your hand and walk you through the minutes of that certain September day.
When the first plane hit, I simply did not believe it. I watched it on TV. I can still taste the mint as I perched on the armrest of the couch, the toothbrush dangling from my mouth as my mother screamed into the phone receiver "We're being attacked!"
My mother was overreacting, and a plane had accidentally crashed into a building. That's all I decided to know as I dressed and got ready for class.
It was real when the college closed and thousands of us walked out to the parking lot. Slowly, silently, shocked. Maybe this is why I've never cared for Zombie films. Somewhere, a car radio was turned up to full volume. We all stood around blankly, thousands of people, listening to this lone radio announcer choke up.
"Today, the United States has been attacked."
What do you do? I didn't know what to do.
I was on the highway. The Pentagon had just been hit. Three planes and maybe a fourth. There could be more. This could last for hours or days or weeks, months or decades or centuries. This could be the first day of the rest of my life. Or it could be the last day of my life.
When the radio, full of static and voices of solemn men, announced the President had gone into hiding, I felt a betrayal beyond words. Logically, we understand the Executive Branch will take cover during emergencies. But when it happens? When it actually happens?
Chaos. But mostly, abandonment. My country abandoned me.
Not the people, of course. We all know the stories of the firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and brave citizens who ran back as most were running out of the wreckage. Those are the heroes.
But my government abandoned me. Take away logic. Logic doesn't exist in the midst of chaos and that's where we were at that moment.
My government abandoned me and this why I write this eulogy today, a dozen years later.
For the first time in my twenty years of life, I drove and looked out the window for airplanes dropping bombs. If my children someday asked me "Mom, what is fear? What is afraid?" I would say "the moment you start to believe a bomb will drop."
My children will never grow up in a world where the United States is invincible. And in many ways, that kills me all over again. In other ways, it gives me hope that we have broken through the blind patriotism--which was never meant to define our lovely and complicated nation--and really learn to question and shape our government. I hope my children learn that a country grows stronger through questioning it, educating it, and healing it rather than boasting of it.
We all died here on that certain September day. There will always be an abrupt break, a thick laceration in the sinew of my life.
An entire nation has post-traumatic stress. We have divided into fervent, unrelenting political parties and dived into extreme sects of religion, specifically Christianity.
And yet, we've come together as a country in a remarkable way: voting a man of color into the White House. That was a beautiful moment that shows hope for us.