Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The truths I learned as a very young child: putting seashell-shaped soap in the fish tank results in Goldie going to heaven, eating an entire tube of cookie dough results in a heck of a tummy ache, and playing carnival games yields no results except an empty wallet. The first two lessons I learned on my own, but my knowledge of the scam that is carnival games was instilled by my father who told me it was so, and I had no reason to believe otherwise.

I have happy childhood memories of funnel cakes and tilt-a-whirls, of fat fries dipped in malt vinegar and repeated rides on the “The Whip”. My memories; however, do not include playing Rocko’s Ring Toss, Shoot Out the Star, or Plinko. Dad always said they were a waste of money, a con, a rip-off. Like flushing money down the toilet. If you want a toy, he’d say, I’ll buy it for you at the store. And this was perfectly fine by me seeing as how most of the prizes were poorly made with stuffing spewing out of the seams, looking drunk or crazy due to disproportionate eyes or a sloppy embroidered smile. I respected that my father refused to pour his life savings into an inanimate box or be coaxed by some loud-mouthed fast-talking swindler. Besides, the thought of owning a six-foot-tall giant Bugs Bunny kind of freaked me out.

When I first saw Jamie, she was squished against the Plexiglas surrounded by a stuffed blond baby doll with fat cheeks in a pink frilly dress and a brown teddy wearing an argyle sweater, her little gray face, its friendly disposition, calling out to me from her arrangement in the clutter, her row of green felt spikes peeking out the top of the mass of characters.

I stood there peering into the shuffle silently observing my new friend. That’s Jamie, the dinosaur, I informed my dad pointing her out. I knew I couldn’t take her home, that she must remain encased until some other fool came by and emptied his piggy bank into the impossible machine. I accepted that. I just wanted her to meet my dad.

While Dad went off in search of soft-serve, Mom took me to wait in line for the “The Snake”, a kiddie coaster that went round and round and round. After the ride had come to a full and complete stop, I moved with the group of children to the exit gate where my parents stood waving. It was then that Dad pulled out the small gray dinosaur I had seen in the claw machine and presented it to me. Jamie!

I looked up at my dad in amazement. I wondered how many times he’d activated the three pronged silver claw to dig down and scoop up the buried dinosaur. I learned a new truth that day to add to my ongoing understanding of the world: being my father’s daughter results in a pretty good life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

telltale signs

I’m trying on swimsuits in the Macy’s dressing room. Though not usually the most encouraging of activities for young women with real bodies, I’m feeling pretty fabulous thanks to the adventurous evening I had the night before involving floggers and an open mind.

The sales associate has been helping me with sizes. She’s back now with the suit I want, but in a color I detest.

“Sorry, hon, it’s all we got left. Can I take some of that back for ya?”
I leave the door open as I gather the remaining suits.

As I’m doing so, I guess she seizes the opportunity to check out how well the one I’m still wearing fits. I catch her looking at me in the triple mirrors and turn to face her. Her expression is odd, and I wonder if I have the suit on backwards or if the florescent lights are making my already pale skin appear translucent.

Without hesitation, she blurts, “Girl, your ass is bruised!”

Mortified, I say lamely, “I, ah, must have fallen.”

She gives me a knowing look, mutters something, and walks away.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

eulogy, a story

She sat down at her desk and began writing what was to be her own eulogy. The words flowed out of her like a popped can of soda that had been shaken up, and when she was done, she read over it twice to ensure her tenses were in order- it would be embarrassing if they weren’t. Then she folded it neatly, three vertical lines of fold, and tucked it into the plain white envelope with its blue and white squiggled-for-safety interior. She ran her tongue along the sides and sealed it shut pressing it down and applying some pressure for smoothness. Then she turned it over and stared at the startling white rectangle. What to write? How does one label one’s own eulogy?

She glanced at the clock, as if time were of any factor to her, then peaked out the window, as if the weather were at all relevant. She started memorizing items on the floor and repeating their order to herself, as if she would later be quizzed. Left sleeve of pink hooded sweatshirt atop inside out bleach-stained gray sweatpants over blue sock with those little slip-resistant treads on the bottom next to jeans with the difficult zipper slung over the thin brown belt. None of this mattered. She was just procrastinating, and she hated procrastinating because it made her feel weak.

She closed her eyes so she would not be distracted, but then her ears turned on and began listening to sounds distant and near, actual and otherwise. She heard hums and purrs and constant drones, as well as irregular shifts and changes. It was like a concert of broken quiet all around her, all her own, all for her. She cocked her head forward, bringing her chin to her chest and tried to listen even closer before the rest of her had a chance to ruin that moment for her too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

stumbled, a poem

I stumbled upon red
a tangling of bare legs, of hot breath
a thick-aired silence
a helium balloon

I stumbled upon yellow
a movie I've been wanting to watch
a poem I've been meaning to hear
a memory I've been hoping to retrieve

I stumbled upon green
a child's toy forgotten on a park bench
a spotted dog chasing his own tail
a plant that refuses to grow

I stumbled upon blue
a cloudless sky
a text message canceling dinner plans
an empty bus stop for a moment of solitude

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

looking out, a poem

From her apartment
The city looks like sky
The lights like stars
Looking down as if you’re looking up
If you cross your eyes slightly
All shapes vanish
Then you can look for the constellations
Play connect the dots
Find something familiar
And something brand new

Sunday, March 21, 2010

grass, a story

She tied knots out of grass, connecting blade after green blade. She wanted to make a dress, but the grass kept breaking. She wanted to make a dress because soon she would not have access to her dresser drawers. Soon her parents would be gone, and with them their money, so she wouldn’t be able to buy anything new. And everything old would have been destroyed in the fire, and the only way, the only possible way, she would be able to stay at her school and not have to move again, and not become part of the system and the state, and not be raised by a foster family with too many kids and too many chores and too many rules and too many mean looks would be to convince everyone: her teachers, her friends, herself that she could take care of herself. She was fine staying in the woods, foraging for food, sleeping on her pale blue Minnie Mouse sweatshirt. It said Orlando, Florida on it. That implied she was traveled. A girl who had been on vacation was a girl taken care of indeed! Her scam at sleepovers was so believable, in fact, that friends’ parents didn’t bother with questions about her home or her lack of socks. Everyone was merely concerned with having a grass garment of their own. She would go into business and make her own money. All of her needs would be met by selling grass dresses and skirts, grass “sweaters” and headbands, pants made from grass and purses. Soon, the whole neighborhood would be wearing grass in place of clothing. Then she would never be caught. Ever. Then, everyone in the town would look the same. Any lingering questions would be swept away with the new phenomenon. She was a visionary. A visionary who couldn’t tie together more than three blades of grass.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I walked home without my coat on, watched three friends fool around with a guitar on the their front steps, heard laughter, saw skin.

I took the longest route home even though the strap of my bag, holding my shed-off sleeves and more than my share of library books, was digging into my shoulder. Now, I have put the bag down, surveyed the indentation, and want to go back out and explore the summer-seeming night.

Weather this mild is so infrequent, especially for it to have lasted into the night. The good sun was kind enough to leave lingering warmth as she gathered herself to settle in. The air feels nostalgic and carefree, sweet smells of honeysuckle waft over to me, an energy of contentment swoops me up: excitement and relief. It feels good to sweat, to be outside, to walk and be blanketed by that made-especially-for-me temperature. I am lubricated by perfection.

It reminds me of growing up, of east coast evenings, all the sounds and aspirations. Friendly and familiar, this night cradles me. It removes worry and negativity. It produces hope in abundance. I gladly take what I am offered.

Monday, March 15, 2010

remembering, a story

Do you remember that night that we were eating pistachio gelato on the bench outside your apartment because it was too beautiful to be inside and how you theorized that our having found one another and being together fulfilled a long anticipated prophecy as if we were characters in a C.S. Lewis book?

Do you remember how much you liked when I wore that white v-neck with the splashy flowers on it and how you always complimented me with your eyes?

Do you remember how you used to tell me that my vagina tastes like honey? And how you would lay your head on my stomach as I would massage your scalp and how your tiny curls would fall like snow onto my bare chest?

Do you remember when we drove to Stockton to go thrifting and the car broke down and we had to be towed all the way back to San Francisco and how the tow truck driver told us about how he used to be a medic in the army before he became an auto mechanic before he drove tow trucks and how he said that putting cars back together is a lot like putting people back together?

Do you remember that strawberry and nutella crepe we shared the day we found out your mother was leaving your father?

Do you remember the peacock that was stalking us at the zoo after you gave it a piece of your rice cake?

Do you remember kissing by the Sutro Baths while tourists were snapping photos and how you made that comment about us not being able to shake the paparazzi?

Do you remember when we dogsat for your friends on Castro Street in that seafoam green Victorian and how we rented the entire series of Mary Tyler Moore from the library and we wore hats- yours thin blue and white stripes like a conductor, mine a deep purple baseball hat we found at Crossroads that said Hawaii in big block letters- so we could flip them up each time the theme song played?

Do you remember when your pen leaked all over my dress and how I cried into your arms at the Laundromat because it didn’t all come out in the wash?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

five more minutes, a poem

Outside of the sleeping bag
Over my head
Getting ready
Off to hunt
But I want to gather
In my arms

Saturday, March 13, 2010

three e-mails, a story

Smiling in the dark, she was greeted with three e-mails in a row from him. She realized she sort of liked crazy. She felt a rush seeing his full name in bold under ‘Sender’ on top of the cue of family birthday reminders, forwarded dumb jokes or inspirational stories with animated angels, and a slew of group project-related e-mails for her Economics class that she would ignore for another day.

She clicked on the first of his messages- a sometimes rhyming poem they had written together on a napkin at Ritual about dogs with bandanas and the re-emergence and questionable acceptance of patchy facial hair within the ‘Hipster’ community. The following email had two attachments- photos they had taken of each other in mid-sip, faces downturned into giant white mugs.

She reached for her glass of water that she regularly left on her nightstand before opening the third email and glanced at the digital red numbers on her ancient alarm clock. 12:11. It had been approximately a half hour since he had walked her to her arched doorway, given her a sweet, tongue-less kiss goodnight, and headed for home on his blue and white bike.

She couldn’t tell her roommates about the three e-mails, she thought. They would think he was crazy and needy and possessive and borderline stalker-ish and not playing by the post-first date contacting rules. They would advise her to never see him again. But, she liked that he wasn’t into games, appreciated his attentiveness, and felt relieved to have confirmation that the date had gone as well as she thought it had. Instead, she would tell them about the art installment where he appreciated the same pieces she had and made fun of the same pieces she had. She would tell them about the conversation they had shared about problems in the school system and the later realization that they had both grown up with cats named after early 90’s cartoon characters. And, she would tell them that he had suggested they go for coffee, further extending their time together.

She thought, too, about the kiss- how gentle he was. She thought she might add a little to that scene for dramatic effect during the undoubted Q&A portion of the retelling, for good measure. She had been meaning to work on her storytelling skills anyway, on ‘captivating her audience,’ as her speech teacher had said. She waved her finger on the mouse in order to open the third e-mail.

Friday, March 12, 2010

the duck pond

A simple space with well-kept grass, a still, mucky brown pond, a small stone bridge, and beautiful shade trees with twisted branches that I was too afraid to climb.

Always bringing a peace offering of old bread, or fresh bread that we’d just picked up from 7-11 if there wasn’t any old bread; one didn’t come empty-handed to the duck pond.

Seeing us approach, food in hand, the ducks would promptly begin swimming in from the middle of the pond alerting others with their vibrant squawks. White wings from the distance would swoop in and resting flocks would spring to life. The chiming of a dinner bell in the sounds of our voices.

My mother would hold the bag of sliced bread, and my brother and I would delight in each taking a piece to the border of the pond to dispense amongst our welcoming fans. My brother would rapidly rip the piece of bread into four huge chunks which he would throw to the ground and watch the aggressive ducks pinch at with their tiny beaks. Snapping, shrill protesting, and ruffling feathers would ensue as the ducks gathered around and tried to eat from the same hunk. He would then rush back to our mom to get another piece and repeat the process.

My strategy was to slowly shred my slice of bread into bite-size pieces in order to feed the maximum number of pond-dwellers. Trying to distinguish one duck from the next, I would determine which ducks had had their fill, (usually the persistent ones closest to my feet) and which had been left out of the feeding frenzy, taking a special interest in the more meek animals, attempting to spread the wealth.

After the bread would run out, which happened quickly thanks to the eager humans and the hungry birds, my brother and I would run around in the dazzling green grass with our arms outstretched pretending to be airplanes. Running, laughing, and rolling around until we, and our stained play clothes, were thoroughly worn out.

My favorite moments were the quiet ones just before it was time to leave when I would gently toss pebbles into the chocolate stillness, watching them disappear silently into the expanding circles of acceptance.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

when it rains, a story

WHEN IT RAINS, WE POUR- $2 Pints, says the blue and white square sign outside The Mix. They haven’t been able to put up that sign in a while, I think. I can’t think of the last time it has rained.

I impulsively go inside and order a beer from the sweaty shirtless bear cub with the sparkly navel ring. My cell phone vibrates in my pocket and I see Rebecca has sent me a text. In the ‘stro. Wanna grab a drink? I text back, @ the mix but not for long, and space out as the little image of the envelope carts my message away. A digital carrier pigeon.

I return my phone to my pocket and watch a plaid and skinny jean-clad Jameson drinker with intentionally ironic Where’s Waldo glasses make his shot, hitting the three into the corner pocket, then high five his mountain man friend. Who high fives anymore?

The phone vibrates again, and I see that it is Jillian inviting me to a house party in the Haight. I don’t text back. The trickily drops have gained momentum outside, and I wish I could just teleport myself to my bed with the blankets pulled up watching Season 2 of Nip/Tuck on my laptop while drinking tea.

I see Rebecca out front fighting with her umbrella, trying to get it to close without touching its wet, red petals. She looks beautiful, wearing a clay blue vintage dress, marigold ribbed tights, and brown boots with gold buttons adorning the exterior sides. She always wears dresses. I don’t know anyone else who always wears dresses.

I take a long drink, trying to make it appear like I am more ready to leave than I actually am. I don’t want to be here with her or there with Jillian. I don’t want to tell her, them, that, though. My desire not to explain myself outweighs my desire to bolt home, so I correct my hiding-in-the-corner posture, rummage through my gallery of facial expressions, find a smile, put it on, and wave her over.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off. My grandfather’s specialty made with white bread, (the only kind I knew there was back then) and bubbling yellow American cheese, (gently peeled from the individually wrapped coat of plastic) slightly burned on the outside, (just the way I liked it.) Consuming the masterpiece of carbohydrates, dairy, and grease slowly, examining each bite for teeth impressions, and eating around the ends in a spiral-like fashion, so that my final bite of cheesy goodness would be the exact center of the sandwich, the heart, the core.

I would enjoy my lunch on the screened-in back porch of my childhood home, the thin royal blue weathered carpeting, the wooden drawer that housed my expansive rock collection, the old worn-out sofa, which doubled as the base for a fort. That tired and patched sofa marked the gathering space where my Poppy and I would spend many evenings sitting and listening to nature’s chorus: identifying bird calls, eavesdropping on the conversations of insects and frogs.

Often, when it got dark, I would descend into our backyard and take to capturing lightning bugs, holding them captive in a jelly jar just long enough to survey their personalities and give them suitable first and middle names.

It would then be time to carefully release them back into the wild, mindful that they might be parents needing to tuck their children into bed or coerce into completing their homework. Careful not to harm a single bug, I would use my index finger to gently coax them out of the jar, returning the creatures, as much as possible, to the same location I had found them, as to minimize their disorientation so they could once again be free.

These gentle-hearted gestures were both intrinsic notions and absorbed teachings instilled in me from the nature-loving qualities of my grandfather, the man who helped me understand my role in the world by teaching me about the things in nature I could change and those I could not.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

al dente, a story

“Don’t you think it’s weird that your brother’s getting married?” Kyle drops the green linguine into the oversized pot.

“I think it’s weird that someone’s willing to marry him,” is my reply.

“Don’t you think you should do that over a plate?” he asks, calling me out on grating the cheese directly onto the counter.

“The counter’s clean. I wiped it myself,” I say, making a mental note to order take-out next time.

“No, I mean, isn’t it weird that he’s getting married first?”

I put the orange block down by the sink and gesture with the dairy-pierced grater, clogged cheese working its way out and onto the floor.

“As in, I’m older so I have to get married first, even though I’m not seeing anyone and I have no idea if I even want to get married, if I even subscribe to that institution? Modern day Taming of the Shrew, huh? Like I’m stuck holding the Old Maid card?”

“Hey, I was just asking. I didn’t mean anything bad by it. I just feel like if my little sister got married before I did, it might bother me.”

He looks down at the pasta and stirs for no reason.

“It bothers me that people think it should bother me,” I say, searching the spice rack for garlic powder.

“I just don’t understand,” he says, not at full volume, “why you’re so angry all the time.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

a taste of summer

I know that we're supposed to be welcoming spring, but, to be honest, I could really just bypass it this year and go straight to summer. I am craving warm weather like a pregnant lady craves pickles. I am longing for sundresses, picnics, urban hikes, and late night trips to Mitchell's for some purple ube or thai iced tea ice cream. I want to temporarily retire my coats and long sleeves, sneak into a pool somewhere, watch people go down the giant slip 'n slide they set up in the park, check out the free outdoor movies, build a giant sand castle at Baker Beach, rent a row boat at Stow Lake, go to a Giant's game, indulge in a cold summer ale.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to wish away what we have. I am grateful for spring- the rebirth and all. Trouble is, it still feels like winter. I am still wearing my footie pajamas and sleeping in the TV room because my own room feels like a little slice of Antarctica. In fact, the polar bears and penguins that have taken up residency there, just today, asked if I had some scarves they might borrow.

I am very aware that I have quite a while until summer, especially a San Francisco summer, since they like to arrive fashionably late, but there's nothing wrong with wishing. Nothing wrong with planning day trips to the Musee Mecanique after watching small children brave the chilly Pacific and organizing bonfires at Ocean Beach across from the windmill. Nothing wrong with envisioning spritzers on the sidewalk of a cafe, visualizing myself waking up and heading over to Dolores Park in order to fall asleep blanketed by the sun. Nothing wrong with imagining the weight of a runaway tennis ball in my hand before tossing it back over the fence.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

shop, a poem

You are like a little kid
When we go to the grocery store
You ask me if we can get this thing
Or that
It is usually
And housed in a colorful box
With block letters
I laugh
And tell you
You can have anything you want
Having gained my approval
You drop the box of non-nutritiousness
Into the cart
And take off
To get caught up on
Something shiny

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

camping, a story

“Babe,” she calls me out amidst my beer and dominoes pow-wow. I look up from my sweating bottle and colored tiles.

“When was the last time you’ve had a shower?”

I tell her with my eyes that it has been a while.

“Run yourself under some water, you dirt ball,” she playfully punches me and feigns disgust.

I begrudgingly turn in my tiles so my fellow players can resume their game in my absence, abandon the giant rock that has become my chair, and begin collecting my travel size toiletries and towel.

She follows me inside the hot green tent and zips us in, the camping equivalent of shutting the door.

She reaches her hand onto my back and begins gently massaging my tired, sleeping-on-the-ground-for-the-past-two-nights shoulders. I relish in her soft but firm touch and keep my body turned to encourage her to continue.

“I’m having a lot of fun being here with you,” she tells me.

I turn around so I can see her amazing almond eyes. “Me too.”

Then, she’s kissing me, and we could be anywhere. I forget about the beautiful, rustic ‘scape outside, the mile-high so-green trees and dashing squirrels and birdcalls and our friends in fold-out chairs and the chicken dogs we’re going to roast later over crackling embers. I can only feel her.

I love the way she kisses, each time she brings her ecstatic lips to mine, there’s a different sensation. She never kisses quite the same way. Who knew there were so many ways a person could kiss you? It’s like each one was specifically hand-crafted for me, every time.

I lose her lips for a moment wondering if she gets bored with my kisses. I don’t think I’m as creative as she is. I tend to follow her lead a lot. Every now and then, my tongue will explore hers inventively reaching for a new place at an altered pace, trying to do my part in our connected, hot dance. She doesn’t allow me to continue down my familiar path of insecurity for too long because she calls me back with her hand on the back of my neck, then further commands my attention by sliding her other hand down the front of my denim cut-offs.

We keep kissing and touching in the shadowy dark tent as the still shining sun smiles as my mind is relieved of its duties and my body takes over allowing me to only feel.

Monday, March 1, 2010

another spring day, a story

I’ve driven into Spring, but I don’t remember Winter. I’ve been met with still nights that would be romantic if I had someone for them to be romantic with, clear skies, familiar stars forming the same constellations they had the year I was born and every year following. I’m immersed in pastel printed dresses, gold strappy sandals in all the store windows, resurrected flowers. Yes, Spring is here, loud and clear. But, I have to say, it feels a little forced.

I watch her frail body twitch like a volcano, nearing an eruption. Her stomach looks like it is caving in on itself.

“I’m not suicidal,” she says. “But I’m terrified to be left alone with myself like this.”

What can I say? I’m terrified too.

“Please,” she says, reaching her bony arm toward me. “Don’t leave until you absolutely have to.”

So, I stay. I watch her restless sleep. I stare out the window at the life outside, the blossoming, the thriving, the growth, the lemon sky, the obviousness of the season, the things that make me feel so happy to be so alive.

She sits up because she’s uncomfortable lying down, then stands because she’s uncomfortable sitting.

“I’m not really a fighter,” she says with her back to me so she doesn’t have to gauge my response.

“I know,” I tell her.

“Like if I were in one of those The-Universe-is-coming-to-an-end movies, I wouldn’t fight. I’d just let it happen. I don’t want to be a hero.”

She’s exhausted from talking. She climbs back into bed knocking something off the nightstand.

I go over to pick it up. Outside, I see the sun preparing to pass the baton to the moon. Another Spring day is winding down.