If Only They Knew it was also My Birthday – Loneliness and Defying Conformity

Their knowing looks caught my eye a couple of times as I savored mediocre, overpriced seafood, washing it down with agua con gas, what they call sparkling water in South America. Their faces spoke volumes of pity amidst the dim ambience and lively holiday chatter from nearby tables. If only they knew it was also my birthday, I thought to myself between reluctant bites of yucca con queso and poor excuses for sushi.

It was Christmas Day in Cusco, Peru and I had made reservations at a “fancy” restaurant in the city center. I had just arrived in Peru that morning and I was traveling solo for a week. There was a table of four, two older couples sitting diagonal from my small two-person table situated against the wall adjacent the picturesque window overlooking the Plaza de Armas. What they had obviously noticed was that my two-person table was serving one that evening and what they hadn’t noticed was that I, too, was studying and wondering about them – how did the couples meet? Are they locals? Do they always go out to eat for Christmas?

I was lonely. I’m not going to lie. And the shitty food didn’t help – I would later be chastised by a local for even stepping foot inside this particular tourist driven eating establishment. Had I known it catered to foreigners, I would have certainly opted for something else. Had the table of older couples asked me to join them out of sheer pity, I just might have!

It wasn’t the first time I had felt such a way at a restaurant whilst dining alone but it was the first time it was a holiday and my birthday whilst dining solo. A month after deciding to divorce David, I was on a business/leisure weekend trip to San Francisco where I had made reservations at a French restaurant located in Chinatown of all places. The food was actually really fantastic but the waiter who took forever to approach my table because she admittedly assumed I was waiting for someone made my loneliness the giant elephant in the restaurant. If only she knew I was going through a divorce! I ate half my meal before flagging her down to box it up so I could take it back to my lonely hotel room – at least there I could be lonely without an audience.

Doing things alone have always been a part of my life and more often than not, a comfortable and sometimes desired act – going to the movies happens to be one of my favorite unaccompanied past times. I recall having a conversation with my mother years ago while enjoying breakfast at one of my favorite mid-city Los Angeles cafés. When I told her what I was doing, she replied with slight dismay, stating, “I don’t know how you do that!”

It may have more to do with doing things that make me uncomfortable until I’m comfortable with them or it may have to do with enjoying the solitude of my own company versus the draining camaraderie that sometimes comes with others’ presence. I have a hunch it has a lot to do with doing the thing that society tells people, like the San Franciscan waitress and the old couples, is strange and/or pitiful. I find there to be a liberating factor in defying conformity, no matter how strange, pitiful, or lonely I might appear or feel.

She and I Against the World

The majority of people in my life assume that I’m fine, that I’ve “gotten over it.” The truth is not a day goes by that I don’t feel the absence, the gaping deficiency in my surroundings, and the dark, irreplaceable hole in my heart that used to be filled by my mother.

On a recent trip back to Kansas City, I obtained a portion of her medical records, which revealed some things that I wasn’t privy to, for example, her depression. I had no idea of my mother’s depression prior to her terminal cancer diagnosis and I could go on and on about the guilt that this ignorance instills – how couldn’t I see or recognize that the most important person in my life was depressed, but this isn’t about me. It simply brings to light pieces of the puzzle I didn’t know existed, pieces that I hope to find a home for but understand may never find their resting place.

I began A Righteous Revival as a means of keeping my mother alive. This blog has grown and blossomed into so much more but carried her memory in every post. It was just the other day, I text a close confidant in my life, “My mom was the best. This world seriously lacks without her.” Everything I do lacks without her, but she lives through me. I often ask myself, “What would my mama do?” I recall past conversations with her or imagine what current conversations might be like. This is particularly difficult because I’m not one to comfortably assume, however, I do know my mother would not have voted for Donald Trump and would express passionate opposition to his first three plus weeks as so-called leader of the free world.

My mother spent much of her youth and adulthood feeling like the black sheep of the family and I heavily identify, especially as of recently. I am the young, willingly sterile, divorced, west-coast liberal, travel enthusiast who you’ll never find lying down like a doormat or settling for anything less than I deserve or know to be right. Oh, how I wish my mother were here to witness the legacy she began, to find comfort in our similarities, and to feel that I am not alone in these sentiments.

Too often, I have found myself in situations where people are mistaking my honesty and my passion for anger or aggression. It doesn’t always pay to be direct in this world and I know that’s something my mother could relate to. So often, I’ve found myself in situations where it feels like I’m being told to shut up and sit down like a “good woman” would do, being put in what a large portion of society feels is my place. I never shut up and sit down, but it sure is exhausting to do the thing that others don’t want you to, to stay true to yourself.

The political climate of America today has a way of bringing about these desolate feelings more often than usual, especially when you find yourself surrounded by conservative white folk who turn a blind eye or likeminded liberals expressing complacency and defeat. I don’t fit into either of those categories just as I haven’t fit in to so much of my life. If only mama were here to break bread, smoke a joint, and mull over current events with. The world truly was a better place when she walked it, when it was she and I and not just I against it.

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The Golden Rule & A Lesson Learned

Facebook once again reminded me of an event in my past via their “memories” feature and that was the car accident I was in exactly four years ago…

A Righteous Revival

The sickening sound of crunching metal and breaking glass was deafening, sending David and I into a minor shock as our brand new Mazda 3 went spinning at a ninety-degree angle before coming to a complete stop in the middle of Ocean Avenue’s three-lane traffic.  Sitting in the passenger seat, I had already braced myself for the impending impact by hanging on tightly to the handle of the roof’s interior as I saw the Taxi SUV coming.  Unfortunately, David had not seen it coming when he went to make a U-turn.

It was the night before our cross-country move to Los Angeles.  We had just picked up our brand new car in the Bronx, at David’s sister’s house, where we had parked it the last couple of weeks after purchasing it.  With merely sixty miles on its odometer, we drove up our street in Brooklyn.  We both excitedly saw a…

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#ICANTKEEPQUIET

My face was half an inch from a gentleman’s armpit as two Italian nationals used me as their subway pole and the entire car sang “Three little Birds” by Bob Marley. We were on the red line from North Hollywood to Pershing Square, the starting point for Saturday’s Women’s March in Los Angeles and we were packed in like sardines, reminiscent of my New York City commuter days during rush hour.

It’s moments like this I wish I was taller,” I commented to my friend who began singing Skee-Lo’s one hit wonder as the unusually tall man behind her chuckled. Bob Marley turned into “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and a young man standing near the doors began feeling faint. Strangers all around him started fanning him with their makeshift signs, offering him water, and making certain of his wellbeing.

When we finally reached Pershing Square and the peaceful crowd exited the train, this man escaped onto the less crowded platform, making his way to a bench where he could breathe a little deeper. My friend and I approached him to ensure that he wasn’t alone and that he didn’t need anything. His friend arrived shortly thereafter.

Upon exiting the subway, we were greeted by a large chunk of the Los Angeles population – 750,000 strong, we marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles chanting, “My body, my choice” while the men responded, “Her body, her choice!” Creative signs and costumes abound from a colorful drawing of the vagina with the words, “GET vagucated” to “Make the White House black again” to simpler and more to the point signage including one of my favorites: “EQUALITY is better than great!” I have never been more proud to be an Angeleno or a woman than I was this past Saturday. The positive energy and motivation was palpable and it instilled in me the kind of hope that I needed after the last couple of months of this tumultuous, political climate.

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My friend and I walked a mile each way to and from the subway that day. We stood on the train platform for an hour and a half before cozying up really close to perfect strangers, and we trudged through an excessively muddy lawn in Grand Park along with thousands of other human beings that day. We conversed with eighty-year-old Herb from New York and his wife who used to actively work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) during the civil rights movement. She felt very passionate about defending what she fought so hard for decades ago.

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The following day, I called Paul Ryan’s office to profess my opposition to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) only to be met with an automated “this mailbox is full” message and I proudly donated to the ACLU. This is only the beginning and just as Bob wrote so many years ago, “Rise up this mornin’ / Smiled with the risin’ sun… / Don’t worry about a thing / ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright…”

If you want to call Paul Ryan’s office and declare your opinion regarding ACA, call either (202) 225-3031 or (202) 225-0600 or if you’d like to donate to the ACLU, please click on the link below.

https://action.aclu.org/secure/make-tax-deductible-gift-aclu-foundation-0

And I’d like to leave you with this performance that took place at Washington D.C.’s women’s march organized and written by Los Angeles based artist, MILCK. #icantkeepquiet

http://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2017/01/23/511186649/a-flash-mob-choir-at-the-womens-march-turned-this-unknown-song-into-an-anthem

Imaginary Friends, Pt. V – The Birds and the Bullets

My neighbor shot me in the back three times with a BB gun when I was about eight years old. I was standing on the corner of our front lawn with Hitler’s wet dream and the strange chick from a few houses down. We were using our imaginations, probably playing some version of what the Midwest kids called, “house.”

The first shot hurt badly and I remember continuing whatever make-believe I was in the midst of. After the second shot, which hit me directly in the same place as the first, I began to imagine there must be a bird pecking at my back. I have no idea what brought this imagery to mind. Perhaps it was the simple fact that I’d never experienced this kind of pain before or that I’d just finished watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds with my mother and a bullet was the furthest thing from my young mind. I still didn’t move or tell my friends what was happening, though by the third shot that hit, again, in the same spot, they could see the discomfort on my face. They asked what was wrong as I began to cry. I bolted inside, seeking my parents.

“My back, my back,” I was shouting in between sobs and trying to reach the wound, twisting my dominant right arm behind my back, unsuccessfully.

Both my mother and father were telling me to calm down as they sat me on their bedroom floor and lifted up my shirt to investigate. I began retelling the situation and it didn’t take more than five seconds before my dad quickly stood up, muttering angry f-bombs as he stormed out into the warm, summer air.

“Rick! Where are you going,” my mother yelled after him. My dad didn’t stop, but responded, “Call the police! This motherfucker shot her with a BB gun!” By “this motherfucker,” he meant the neighbor boy across the street that we’ll call David because, well, that was his name.

By the time my mother had dialed 9-1-1, my dad was already pounding on David’s parent’s front door, demanding, audibly from our home, “Open the fuckin’ door you son of a bitch before I break it down.” He could be seen pacing from the door to the living room window while continually shouting his demands. Obviously, the parents weren’t home and there was no way David had the balls to open that door.

I am uncertain how my dad was so certain that it was the juvenile delinquent neighbor or that he knew it was a BB gun I had been shot with. David must have made his character evident prior to shooting me and my dad was an army brat, after all.

All of us were relieved that the police showed up before my dad got his wish and got inside. It may very well had been my dad in handcuffs in the back of the cop car instead of David had my dad broken down the door. I recall my dad even saying, “I have no idea what I was gonna do if they’d opened the door.” My dad wanted blood that day and that may be one of the more telling moments in my young life where I could see how much my dad loved me and how far he was willing to go to protect me.

The three BB gun bullets broke the skin, but thankfully, because it was from far range, they did not penetrate. I don’t even have a physical scar. My parents didn’t press charges, but David was required to personally apologize for his actions in front of the police and my parents. When questioned on the reasoning behind his actions, his response was, “Because I wanted to see what would happen if I shot a living thing.” My brother became friends with my attacker some time after the incident, which didn’t last long as David was later arrested and sent to juvenile hall for beating up a handicapped kid.

This is the part where I’m supposed to talk about how it made me feel that my brother would befriend the person who had shot his sister. Like shit. The end.