Sunday, October 28, 2007

Future Cop-I-Am-Not

So when I tell people I'm from Oakland, I am always quick to defend my hometown, "NO, I don't claim Blood or Crypts...YES, there are nice parts of Oakland...NO I did not carry a gun to school growing up." Tonight though, as I was waiting for my (GASP) Kentucky Fried Chicken in a fit of low blood sugar, I caught what I thought was a fight in front of the cash register out of the corner of my eye. Having spent a few months in South Africa where stories of robberies, carjackings and worse are pressed upon you every time you venture into the city (or any public place for that matter), I reacted quickly in a relatively new response of instant self preservation. As I saw a guy running toward me I pressed myself up against the soda machine and let him pass me by (the store has no tables - just a walk up counter and probably about 100 square feet of standing room). Only as I saw him run out of the store, pursued by another customer, did I realize that I had just made it that much easier for a ROBBER to get past me with the donation box for disadvantaged kids that was previously attached to the counter. I wish I had been more aware of what was going on (instead of so focused on getting the right balance of ice and diet coke in my cup) - if I had just stuck my foot out I'm sure I could have tripped him up. Then again, he was apparently brandishing scissors as a weapon, and there was a sort of desperation in his run as he clutched the box with a pile of ones and the jangle of coins in front of him. True crime Oakland: Watch your quarters and dimes!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

a scrape that bleeds

Last week I was tearing the thermostat off the wall trying to replace the batteries and get some damn heat up in here. Now, today is the third day in a row in which every window in the house is open trying to air out the heat that's collected in our sunny flat. Lest you think I could make it three sentences without acknowledging this is an analogy for my emotions these days, I'm here to disappoint you.

In truth, this is always been how my emotions role - sometimes hot, sometimes cold - somewhat extreme highs and hinting at debilitating lows - with sets of static emotion-free time in between. I've done a lot of work internally, with family, in therapy and through trial and error to get to know what to expect from my internal happy-meter - though of course it never fails to catch me off guard how far I have to go. Here's the thing about having had "issues" - you want to sign them away for ever. Family issues - check. Done the yelling, the crying, the forgiving the accepting. Boy issues? Check. Done the alone time, the together time, the walk away from unhealthy time, the hold out for what's good for me time. Work issues? Check. Done the hard time, the boring time, the putting in my time and the let it all go time. But on all fronts, if I'm scraped in just the right way, the blood flows as if no work has been done at all.

I know I'm impatient with myself. I know I don't always give myself the credit I deserve - or perhaps I pick apart the pieces of me that are closer to whole than those that aren't for fear of having to confront real imperfections. The problem with this is that ultimately it's avoidance. It's pretending that I am somewhere that I'm not, because I so badly want to be. I want to be o.k. with where I come from, what I've done, and where I'm going. Unfortunately, sometimes I am not o.k. But rather than acknowledge and deal with this, I pat myself on the back for the work I've done in the past, and deal with my emotions like the ever changing weather around me. They poke up now and then, in brief interactions with the people closest to me, inspired by the true-to-life dramas I watch on t.v. - sometimes in reaction to issues my friends and family are struggling with that don't even involve me. It's tricky - the fall out of wanting to be o.k. sometimes leads to inadvertently hurting yourself or those around you even more than you would if you could just be o.k. with being who you are, where you are - no matter how much you've worked in the past to be at a different point.

Acknowledging this lets the scab start to form, the heat to drop, the chill to thaw. Letting what is simply be - it's better for all involved, especially me.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I do not like being teased, and while I wish I could blame this on the fact that all teasing carries some element of truth - it's more that I don't like anyone but myself to have a say in how silly/immature/lazy etc. etc. that I can be. For what is teasing if not to allude to, albeit in jest, some sort of shortcoming in the person being chided? Fundamentally, I don't think this is bad. None of us are perfect and the joy of any true relationship or friendship is the knowledge that someone has accepted you, flaws and all. For some reason, and as I write this I think it is the major desire I have to ignore my flaws all together, I have not been able to tolerate teasing lately. Not from one of my best friends, or a close family member, or my boyfriend - whose standard response when I say that I'm tired is something along the lines of, "again? Shocking." It is his teasing that gets me the most riled up these days, and he happens to be one of those people who revels in a good tease. He likes to see my feathers ruffled - to see me get antsy and defensive as I try to weasel my way out of what is very often a very true observation he has however circuitously made. For the most part, this makes me look at him as a mother might look at her child when he is being silly, but cute. Re-read that analogy and it spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for a relationship. I can't for the life of me figure out why in the flirtation stage of a relationship (pre-relationship, if you will) teasing can be such a turn on - so fun! What changes when you're in a relationship and you can't laugh it off - you're left with the fact that this person is joking about who you really are (or at least how you act?). Thoughts, anyone?


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Raising Auntie

Life's a bit up in the air for me lately with some unexpected decisions regarding work and school and I'll be honest, things aren't working out like I thought they would when I left my job and started moving towards the unknown.

One thing that hasn't changed is how exciting it is to be living near my youngest nephew, and getting to see him every few days and be a part of his life. Of course I'm also learning a lot about how quickly kids can get themselves into trouble. Like last week, no more than three minutes into babysitting I found myself following him into the bathroom, and in my attempts to keep him from unrolling all the t.p. he lost his balance and grabbed the toilet seat (meaning fingers underneath the seat!!!) to steady himself. Just call me auntie hygiene. Then, a couple of days ago my sister-in-law was trying to find something suitable for Dexter to play with when they stopped by my place. After surveying what was available she was forced to settle on a candle holder filled with small bits of beach glass that Dexter enjoyed sifting through and learning the importance of "DON'T EAT THAT." Later that night I realized that Dexter has inherited a small nunzilla I bought for my brother's Christmas stocking a few years ago. It has sparks that fly out of its mouth when you wind it up. SUPER kid friendly.

So ya, life goes on and kids will be kids - and I'm just glad that I'm here while this one's still running around sticking his hands into toilets and playing with glass.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging for something bigger than me

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

I'm sorry guys - my posts have been few and far between and I've had so many thoughts on this, but most remain in the drafts folder, in partially written emails, in notes scribbled on gas receipts in my car. I am starting to figure out this quasi-depression I'm in - not a depression in the standard sense but the hiding from feeling the depth of what I've experienced in the last year. The willingness to ignore the truths I've discovered because I can't philosophically understand why they exist. It's getting harder and harder - I can't process such things on the page for some reason but every night my dreams unfold like one-act plays that speak directly to the 'ish' I can't seem to acknowledge during daylight. I wake up with insight I'm hiding from, only to stuff it down and go about my day, sans writing, sans reflection.

So today I let that go for a moment and recognize something that's been on my heart since I came back from Africa. I may not be able to process that experience as a whole yet - but I can tell you this. I have never been more aware of waste than living in a village sheltered by lovely rolling hills, where children die because of a lack of education and income is non-existent. People don't have money to consume the stuff of health - solid nutritional food, milk, medication. But the local bar was always bustling, and the path I walked every morning strewn with the waste of nights spent away from home trying to drown out the reality of the lives being lived. I look now at the waste in my own community - some of which is the same: the remnants of each of our attempts to escape the life we find ourselves in - whether through copious amounts of cardboard coffee cups or the butts of the day's nicotine fixes. The difference here is we simply have so many more choices. We don't have to consume the crap we do - we have infinitely more resources than in developing nations - so why are we surrounded by an equal amount of crap? In Africa, the infrastructure wasn't developed so the trash lined the streets and overflowed from the few public trash cans. Here we hide our consumption - we throw it away in neat plastic bins and a man comes to collect it once a week and it's gone from our life. But it's NOT gone from our community, from our planet. It's covered in dirt and raked over in ever expanding landfills that we hide carefully from view (or build suburbs on). It's made me sick ever since I returned - the incredible amounts of crap we consume and throw away.

I'd like to see us all do something about it.

Friday, October 05, 2007


I thank God for my metabolism because my response to boredom is to eat - and not just because I'm bored, but because being bored makes me HUNGRY. Seriously, I have just finished second breakfast and my stomach is growling. How does that work? I would honestly think that having eaten a bowl of oatmeal at 6:45 and an egg, meatless sausage patty (shut it - they're divine) and some sliced tomato about 20 minutes ago would mean my stomach is primed for happy camperville. But NO, I am hungry. And bored. And waiting to hear back if I got my dream job, and contemplating how I can work my way out of my current one without losing what might be my first commission whether I get the new job or not. Somehow, being in the Bay Area has thrown my ability to bullshit myself into doing the responsible thing into the great unknown. I think I could deal with my job this summer (albeit with a lot of pissing and moaning) because everything in my life was temporary. But now I'm here, where I've wanted to be, and I'm locked up in my room making cold calls. I have a feeling this isn't going to last very long...which is a good thing. But for now, I'm still starving.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

coming to you from the hiz-zay...

Hi there. It's been a lot longer than I like between posts - but then again, there's been a LOT going on. So, here's the run down on the last week, leading up to my first morning waking up in my new house in the heart of hippy-ville, Berkeley CA.

Last Thursday I got an email from Rotary notifying me of my scholarship placement. I will be headed to the University of Nairobi, Kenya next September for a year of masters studies. I am incredibly excited, but it was a bit bittersweet as I had my heart set on a program in South Africa that would allow me to be near the village I worked in a few months ago. I definitely subscribe to the "everything happens for a reason" mentality, however, so I'm looking forward to how this twist in my expectations plays out. And Kenya? Glorious. I can't wait.

This past weekend the Frenchman visited (third time in a month and a half - it's almost like a normal relationship!) and we went to a wedding in Lake Tahoe. It was very fun to attempt to translate the American wedding tradition to a foreigner - apparently things are done quite differently in France. The best man was someone I had a brief fling with after I graduated from college and for the duration of the wedding I felt like a character in Sex and the City - the Frenchman on my arm and a number of awkward glances to and from the best man. I finally bucked up and said hello near the end of the wedding and enjoyed some banter back and forth. He complimented my cheekbones (random) and all was well.

Yesterday I had an early morning meeting, then drove to the Bay Area to start unloading. I'd been at my new place about an hour when I met my first neighbor, and received my first housewarming gift. This is how you know you're in Berkeley, when you've been gifted with a bottle of illegal moonshine before you've even got your bed in the door.

In the afternoon, I grabbed a brief nap, rested the calves (this is my fourth residence on the third floor) and got ready to interview for the closest thing to my dream job I have yet to encounter. It's in the realm of sustainability consulting, and I am really excited about the potential. I was terrified my moving-induced stupor would get the best of me, but I feel pretty confident about the meeting and I'm keeping my fingers crossed I get good news in the next few weeks.

The last sign I'd officially arrived in the Bay Area occurred when I was leaving the interview en route to the famous Tonga Room at the Fairfield Hotel in San Francisco. I passed a rally in support of the release of the Jenna 6 - and I knew I was home. Moonshine, opportunities and the freedom of speech - that's what my hometown is all about.