In Just One-Thousandth of a Second

 

#52essays2017  21/52

It was the middle of the workday and I had to be at an appointment by 4pm in the downtown area.  You know how it is trying to find a parking space in any downtown area at that hour, I was doing the praying thing and ended up at a stoplight right near one of the radio stations I used to call home.  I’m sitting there staring almost into space, not really looking at anyone or anything in particular, lost in thought about when I worked there.

You know how it feels when you think someone is staring at you?   I first looked up at the traffic light, still red, and then I see him standing at the corner.   Still handsome.  Combing his hair differently.  Hands locked with a beautiful blonde, she was taller than him, and he looked really happy.   Now I didn’t expect that he would run over to me or say anything to me but did I expect him to turn all colors of red as he caught my eye for a millisecond? No.  He then turned away and kept his face down.

We were friends for a very short time and got along very well but the timing was off to get into anything serious.   So no goodbyes were said, maybe there’d be a chance to try again in the future.  So when I saw his face again and I didn’t even get what we call the ‘Mexican Hello’ – where you just lift your head as if giving a saludo with your eyes, I felt sad.  But wait, not in the sad that you might think,  I wasn’t thinking in “what if” mode, I was sad because we were friends and it was pretty apparent that he didn’t want to be my friend, at least not in that moment, likely never.

During the couple of intense years where I, or anyone who had any connection to me, received, almost daily, tons of texts, phone calls, postings on social media, emails sent out to colleagues and superiors from Joe in his insane rage; this man was targeted and harassed almost as much as I was.

Pinche collateral damage maldito.  I hate it.  No one deserved to have to put up with pendejadas from such a misguided and emotionally unstable person.   I’ve never expected EVERYone to always give me the benefit of the doubt, everyone’s situation is different.  However, I do know that this man had to change jobs at least once and I know that it is not easy to clear up a professional reputation after this type of nightmare…knowing this makes me sad.  I’ve also had to accept that this will likely not be the last time I have to deal with the after-effects of this past insanity.  There is no way that I could have stopped this madness is what I have to keep telling myself.

So once the light turned green and the Jeep moved forward, I could now feel his eyes on me, I did not try to meet his gaze, I tried very hard to keep my head up, to say a little prayer for his happiness, and, more important, I did not look back.

 

#52essays2017  21/52

 

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Which One Is Easier? Life? or Death?

#52essays2017  20/52

It was Cinco de Mayo morning. I had events in two cities that year. I remember. I was setting up in one city and getting ready to head to a Cinco de Mayo parade in another. I was to meet Rosa so that we could handle the parade.

I kept calling and no answer, nada. I thought that she might have overslept, as we had gone to see my family at a gig the night before.  As I got closer, I kept calling and getting angrier because I really needed to get to the parade as it was time to line up.  Each message I left was something like, “mujer! get the eff up, we cannot be late and I don’t have time to go for you, hello? your client will be pissed and why do I have to take care of this sh– too!? Jeez…”

Once I got to the event, I was more angry than concerned, I admit.  Cinco de Mayo is the biggest time of the year in SpanishRadioLand and it is the one time of the year that I do NOT tolerate this kind of irresponsibility, no call, no text, nada?  I was livid.  However, I got us through the day and that was that.

While on the drive home, I tried to call Rosa again and, still, no answer.  Her daughter had gone on a trip with her school so she wasn’t home and I wished that I knew how to get of hold of Rosa’s ex to see if he had seen her.   I was thinking that both Rosa and I were going to be leaving the station soon as we had both gotten other jobs and would be moving from the area.  Rosa was going to be moving during the upcoming week which is why we were out celebrating the night before, she would be leaving right after Cinco and her ex was not happy about her leaving, he was all up with another woman yet he still kept Rosa hanging on – she had decided that she’d had enough and was down for for a change.

On that Monday after the Cinco de Mayo festivals, I was at the station and had just completed my on-air shift, when I got the call.  The police called me to see if I could go into speak with them regarding the circumstances around Rosa’s death.   Upon hearing the news, I was almost inconsolable and very much in shock and disbelief.   Turns out that she was found in her garage with a rope around her neck near the running car that had been rammed into the washer/dryer, found by her mother and daughter when Rosa failed to show up to pick up her daughter from the aforementioned trip.

The first question the detectives asked me was ‘did you think that your friend was capable of suicide?’.  I didn’t think so but I did know that, some days, I would have to talk her into getting to the office, going to pick her up even, so that she wouldn’t lose her job.  Looking back, the pain of depression is very real, and Rosa was trying to fight it off, to make a new start for herself.   I was numb and became very depressed as well over Rosa’s death.  I couldn’t sleep, I was afraid to be by myself, I was afraid for Rosa, was she at peace? was she still in pain? what was she thinking when she decided it was time to end it and stop her pain?

To this day, I still do not understand what got into Rosa’s mind that she needed to end it all.  I suppose that it’s true that for some folks, living is harder than dying.   After my intense sadness, I spent a good long minute being mas enojada que la fregada /mad as hell.  Frustrated that I could do nothing to help her, to save her.  I did try, but it wasn’t enough.  Angry that her daughter would grow up without her mama, angry that her ex had indeed been at her home that night but it was never proven that he had anything to do with her death.

Now I choose to remember the good things:  her laugh, her unique way of telling me the chisme, how she used to tell me that dressing up and putting on ‘lipistick rojo‘ would make my day better, the hilarious ways she would use the f-word, that she loved pearls, and loved to wear red.  Rosa, for all of her sad times, was able to always be my champion and was all for me ‘moving on’ to the next opportunity and helped me find my InnerChingona when I needed it most.  It was absolutely the best thing for my career that I made this move.  I smile when I think that she never let me forget that, after a crazy night, that I got to work with only one work shoe with me, and she covered for me at work so that I could go out and buy a pair of shoes and save my reputation LOL!

I’m still trying to learn to watch for the signs of desperation and suicide in a person so that, maybe, I can let them talk it out and find their power.  I’ve been very down before but not to the point of ending it all.  Maybe that’s a gift that Rosa gave me, to show me how to handle my business and stress another way.  Quien sabe?

I wish she were here.  Especially today.  It’s her birthday.

#52essays2017  20/52

My Sad Cinco de Mayo

#52essays2017  19/52

I have been involved with Cinco de Mayo since the 3rd grade.  Folks in my life KNOW exactly where I will be every year around this time of the year.  I have seen and planned Cinco events within the community, in grade school, in high school, for any of the radio stations I have worked with, in college, at the university. I know the ins and outs of how to put these celebrations together, large or small. When I work an event, I usually work my butt off during the planning sessions so that the day of event, I don’t do much running around all loca.

In any event, you can do your part the very best you can yet there are things that you have no control of: the weather, whether the crowds will show up, or not; artists or bands travel schedules. if your station is on the air, or not . I tend to get super-focused and I mentally work my plan the entire day. I don’t go crazy unless any of the above situations occur.

So you can just imagine how I am when I actually A T T E N D an event where I am not working one. I can have it analyzed almost instantly – how could the event been better? what could the organizers done differently? who put this mess together? why did they do things this or that way? or not? I feel sorry for the folks who attend with me because I am usually counting the colors on banners, checking out the sponsor’s logos so that I can see if they’re interested in speaking to me about my events, handing out cards to the vendors. so it’s not the most relaxing time for me. thus I rarely go.

I attended this Cinco de Mayo event as my superblessedtalented godson would be performing in San Francisco’s Cinco event. I told myself to shut the hell up with my suggestions for the event, that I was there for him, not to analyze the event. My godson looked so cool and I loved watching him work it. I was happy being one proud Nina (godmother).

As we were walking though the festival, however, something didn’t feel totally right. This event was in the middle of the Mission District, this event was free, this event was being held on a beautiful day.

What was missing?

The straight-up Latino vibe was missing; or better yet. the L A T I N O S were missing. What did I see? Lots of trendy restaurants and bars, lots of folks of different colors, cute lil blended families with money – how could I tell, you ask? Very expensive strollers ‘de nombre‘. expensive pets,  great clothes, lots of them talking about their work – mainly start-up, techies with very-well-behaved children, food trucks, no real Mexican food booths. The one word that came to me was ‘gentrification‘. I have worked many many many many festivals and events in the Mission and NEVER had I felt such sadness.  When I voiced my thoughts out loud and said the word “gentrification”, my godson shook his head in agreement.

I love seeing all of the Latino desmadre at the events: familias, the lines for the tacos, fruta, aguas frescas, and more. The stage areas packed with people, the vendors giving out free stuff en friega, no one talking about work because fiestas are fun and social, and you hear Spanish and Spanglish everywhere!  The best celebrations are where we Latinos celebrate our traditions, our food, our cultura, and we look at our festivals as a time to take a break from our regular lives and reconnect with the motherland and where we can be ourselves.

Gentrification is most definitely the reality in San Francisco.   All of the businesses and their employees moving into the Mission may be construed as making it a busy, vibrant, place, as if it wasn’t before. There is a lot of action, true…but, a cambio de que?  Rents are astronomical, and lots of the Latino familias have had to move into the East Bay and farther.   I saw so many “Help Wanted” signs, but these are likely minimum-wage positions. With rent prices for some 1-bedroom apartments going for upwards of $3,000 a month; HOW could Latinos afford to live in their neighborhoods?   Cultural disparity was also more front and center than ever in the Mission.  My sadness at seeing the Latino flavor moving out of the neighborhood is so real.  I’ve been thinking about it all day and night, how can this neighborhood remain Latino? do the people who live there care about this, my sense is that they are wanting to do the best for their families yet have little resources, my sense is that they would rather not uproot their families and move out of the Mission, but how can they thrive when they must concentrate on how to survive?

Looks like my next move will be to become better informed.  Maybe I am off-point, maybe I’m trippin, maybe I am wrong, maybe it’s my imagination that business and money are sucking the life out of one of the most vibrant communities ever.

Then again…maybe I’m right.

Time Will Tell.

 

#52essays2017

The Comadre Chronicles: This Reina Has Her Own Back! #52essays2017

#52essays2017   18/52

I was hanging out with my BFF Comadre last night and, like many of us girls do, we were looking at how the other women in the place were dressed and doing that side-glance thing to each other and saying things like ‘mmm hmmm’ or ‘I don’t know about that dress’, and things like that.   Now my Comadre and I have not ever been been 100% slim in all of the years we’ve known each other so we didn’t really have room to be talking about folks LOL.

Let’s take the story back a few years.  Back in the day, I was in my first semester of college and I wanted to do what I always do:  get involved in clubs and campus events.  When I met MariaLuisa, it was obvious that she was one of the most popular people on campus, she knew e v e r y o n e.  I felt really intimidated by her because, by all accounts, I was very much a square.  Carmen wore socks with skirts, braids in my hair, no makeup, and I knew almost nothing about life and I did not feel very popular.   Fast forward a few years, we ended up roommates when we went on to the University.   I was so glad that I had someone to hang out with as I started a new phase in my life.  While it was always easy for me to make friends, I was beyond amazed at how my Comadre really worked it with people, by the end of the week, this girl knew half the school and had invites to all kinds of events and parties.

I had never lived anywhere but on the Ranch and, once I stopped being all homesick and miedosa, I started to have a lot of fun and was waaay into clubs and events.  My Comadre was great at encouraging me to live my life and to remind me that “this ain’t the Rancho, girl” LOL.    Every morning, my Comadre would make me LOL when she would look in the mirror and say, “chingao, que buenota eres!” as she blew a kiss into the mirror.  It didn’t matter to her that she was not flaquita, girl embraced her curves.  This was the greatest affirmation ever and I began to understand how she was always so popular, why guys were always after her, why she was so much fun.  She loved herself, and not in that conceited way, she knew how to be there for herself.

As roommates do, we held many long talks about life and when my Comadre told me this story, I admired her all the more.

When my Comadre was in high school in Coachella, she was all into school events (surprise, surprise) and Student Goverment.  As she tells it, she was very into school spirit and had a ton of friends.   Around Homecoming time, the students were nominating girls for Homecoming Queen and my Comadre, as a member of Student Government, was assigned to go around to classes to pick up the completed nomination forms.  “As I went from class to class, picking up the slips, I would look down and see my name and I thought “no, someone is playing a joke on me.” Mary says she finally stopped looking at the notes and, after collecting them all, turned the votes in to be counted.

The most vote-getters would be announced at a Pep Rally with the entire school present.  There would be five finalists announced.  Mary was her spirit-crazy self, having a good time with her schoolmates.  “And then they called the final name, and it was ME.  I could not believe it!”  My Comadre remembers that, when her name was called, that there was a huuuuuuge cheer from the students, but she decided that she wasn’t going to think twice about it.

“I remember that my Mama made me a really nice green velvet dress and, the night of Homecoming,  I remember getting into the convertibles to drive into the stadium thinking that this was fun and that things would be back to normal soon.”   The time had come to make the announcement for Homecoming Queen and Mary remembers, “I kept hearing the other girls’ names being announced as runner-ups and thinking ‘no way I’ll win’” Finally, it was time to announce the Homecoming Queen and HER NAME was called!

How exciting!  As she got up into the convertible again to be driven around the stadium, my Comadre remembers waving to all of the groups of friends including the cholas LOL  this girl, crown and all, starts doing chola poses in front of these girls to their great delight.   How cool was that?   When the time came for pictures, the four statuesque runner-ups towered over Queen Mary and then they did something unforgettable:  they walked away from this queen, choosing not to stand with her, stunned that this short gordita could actually WIN as Homecoming Queen,

My heart broke a little for my Comadre when she told me this.  But then I thought about how Mary has always been true to who she is:  she may have never been tall or thin but that never stopped her – ever.  My Comadre has always carried herself like a queen, a ‘reina‘, she has always been able to find that little piece of self-esteem when she’s needed it to keep moving forward, and girl talks to anyone, anywhere, anytime, she is the definite life of the party.  One of the things we both have fun with is when the beautiful model-type girls look at her, mouths open in wonder when the guys gravitate toward her- and this happens to this day.  While Mary was momentarily hurt that those Homecoming Court girls would not stand by her, she took what she learned from this experience and she always says that there’s room for women of any sizes a n y w h e r e, and that you should never let your size get in the way of anything you want to do in your life.   I’ve always loved being her friend and have always said that we all need a friend like my Comadre:  her sense of aventada-ness is second to none, her mevalemadre attitude is front and center, she is the most fun and authentic person I know who embraces her gordita-ness and doesn’t let the flaquitas get her down.  I still watch her and learn how to act from Queen MariaLuisaArceFelix!

At this writing, I’m still searching for a Homecoming Queen pic of MariaLuisa and will post as soon as I find one!

#52essays2017