Sunday, April 2012
Today I decided to drive to my local library where I sometimes work on my writings or just read while my Teto (that’s The-Tho to you) sleeps. This time the project was a poem about generations then and now so with headphones on I began to write. It was an overcast day, beautiful to me, and a bit chilly within the library. Not as crowded as usual perhaps due to the day of the week. I was on a roll.
A while later I notice from the corner of my, three shapes walking towards the wall I was sitting next to. They spoke softly and stood staring at the wall. I continued writing. A few moments later I heard the sounds of a camera snapping away and immediately my concentration was broken. Were these just kids messing around or bored with nothing to do but disrupt people’s attention? I tried to continue my train of thought but it was to no avail. Still, from the corner of my eye I saw the three shapes, only now they looked to be formed in a three-way hug. This caught my attention and turned to face their direction.
What I saw was nothing as I had thought. There stood a mother and her two children, admiring the mural (I hadn’t noticed before) on the wall. I was instantly curious. I couldn’t hear what the mother was explaining to her children but it seemed important to me. They took a few more photos, some standing next to their grandmother, other shots of just the mural. As they turned from the wall I seized the opportunity to ask if they knew someone on the wall and the mother informed me that the woman sitting in the chair in the mural was her children’s grandmother. The story was that their grandmother volunteered at the library everyday until her death in 2005. The mural had been unknown for a time within the family until that year when someone had told them about it.
The whole experience had made me a bit teary-eyed and emotional. It was a wonderful feeling knowing that this mother wanted her children to see a wonderful mural honoring her mother-in-law and the wonderful woman she was. It was a different culture than mine and all the more interesting. Although I did not probe further, I delved into my own image of who this delightful woman was and the happiness she brought to the children at the library.
Los Angeles, April, 2012
Recently I had the privilege of meeting two of the most interesting women to be added to the list of already awesome women in this world such as my best friend Silvia and my Tía’s. We women don’t get enough credit for being interesting let alone awesome unless we’ve written 10 best sellers, own 5 gold records or have received at least 1 Academy Award. But I’m here to tell you that interesting women do exist and though we may not be famous or wealthy beyond our means, we are still SOMEBODY.
So I begin in the heart of East Los Angeles, which isn’t pretty unless doctored up by Hollywood cinematographers and night life, but it’s there; in all its grittiness and truth. A city washed in dirty colors of greys and dusty browns seen in the air as beautiful building murals of culture and honor try desperately to burst out of these smog-filled days and all walks of life hustle about trying to catch that MTA or Foothill Transit bus to anywhere but here. I know East Los, I know what it’s like to see homeless truth and run down vacant buildings of promises of a better tomorrow. And this is where my story begins. This is where one of my most inspiring informative conversations with Blanca, Cathy & I (and yes, you too Phillip) takes place.
The place; a non profit organization which offers tattoo removal for those who want to change what they used to be because certain “Tatts” that once represented and defined them no longer bear any weight or shame. Or perhaps it offers another form of therapy, being able to walk in and open up to the workers here about any problems or life altering changes they are going through. I arrived here with a good friend and Spiritual Mentor, Phillip, to talk about removing a certain tattoo that I have. The tattoo in question says Fallen Angel in Arabic. I chose this after the death/suicide of my younger and only brother. I owned the painful weight of guilt for having failed him by not being the sister I should’ve been. He was in his mid teens and so lost in the angst and rebellion of living without his mother and the strict rules and attention given by our father. I still live with the guilt even now, almost six years later, but it’s not as bad as it was in the beginning. I thank my Creator for being there through it all but also to my family & friends who understood and listened.
The first woman I met was Cathy, a well educated Columbian with a friendly disposition I could sense right away as soon as she smiled, who was busy in her small corner of the office working on whatever her job required of her. The second was Blanca, a Mexican American ex-gang member who would definitely catch my attention with her intriguing ‘in your face’ opinions and humored conversation topics. We were three very different women if you were looking at us from the outside. From Cathy’s decorated toenail art to Blanca’s dialect and my tomboy- no frills look, the first question out of some bystanders mouth would probably be: “What on earth do these women have to talk about?” Had we been stuck on a deserted Island what would observers have written down? Would the three of us connect or would we go our separate ways with nothing in common? But like I’ve always believed and lived by; Never judge a book by its cover.
We found out that Blanca was in desperate need of sleep from the amusements of the day before, and thus began our first topic of Insomnia and trouble sleeping which I suffer from. From Blanca I learned that boiling lettuce and drinking the water helps aide in sleeping, I argued that sleeping pills can be habit forming and because they are chemically produced by scientists why trust them? We spoke about the differences between books that were made into movies and found out that we all favored The Shawshank Redemption. While Cathy favored the Godfather book to the movies, Blanca really enjoyed the movie Angels & Demons over The Da Vinci Code. While some books were hard to get into such as Cathy getting through Citizen Kane, and myself trying to get through The Grapes of Wrath, some thick books were worthwhile. Blanca was into the last book of the Bible and was on a mission to understanding Revelations and all of its meanings.
We found out that we all have ticks and some type of OCD. From Cathy’s early habit of touching and counting lamps, to Blanca’s even and odd counts matching both the left and right sides of her body, to my constant peeling of skin around my fingers, we each had something to contribute to a reality we thought we weren’t a part of. With all of the information gathered by one another we were learning from each other and growing closer without realizing it. To think it all began with a simple ‘Hello.’
Organization was a big topic. Blanca was brought up by her Aunt’s conditioning of being neat and clean through her days in prison. Blanca makes her bed every morning and her routine begins the moment she wakes up. She brushes her teeth, prepares her clothes for the day, takes a shower, dresses, makes her bed, and begins her day. Her room is always clean, her white sneakers are always white. When I asked about her “clean sneaker issue” she described it as respect for her belongings because growing up without much makes you appreciate what you do have. Which is also why she hates it when people step on her shoes and don’t bother to apologize. Again, it’s about respect and being courteous when accidents happen. As for Cathy, her bedroom is the only room in her home where being messy is accepted. Items that aren’t picked up around her home, like spills or dirty dishes, drive her crazy. Although we both agree that making our bed is a waste of time because we are just going to sleep in it again, I am very disorganized. I feel bad for my husband who is the complete opposite of myself. Piles of paperwork are comforting and easier to sort through and although I perform thorough cleaning every once in a while, I am frustrated afterwards, not being able to find what I put away.
Our last conversation consisted of religion, the end of the world and other intelligent life forms in the universe. To many, religion seems to be the most taboo of subjects with many people avoiding it at all costs. But not in this case. I enjoyed listening to these women speak of their beliefs and reasonings for them and wasn’t bothered by their difference of opinion towards mine. We each have lived our own lives, have been subjected to family situations concerning religion, and have our own minds to make up about it. While Cathy is against groups who force their religion on others, Blanca is out there trying to make sense of it all and in the process she is shut down by Priests and other clergymen who can’t explain to her what certain references in the Bible mean. She is frustrated by the same “Godly” men who punish her and keep her from their place of worship because of her constant questioning. As for me, I truly believe that there is a Creator, that he created this beautiful world and all of us who dwell in it. I believe that forcing one’s ‘religion’ down someones throat is both ungodly and dissuading. I am learning the Bible from beginning to end with the help of pastors who have taught on the subject via pod casts which is actually better than church at times. I also believe in respecting our earth, our brothers and sisters, and ourselves. We all agree that Atheists can’t prove a thing. We are all disgusted by the Greedy Happy Hallmark-type Organizations who take important messages such as Jesus rising on the third day to mean Easter eggs, candy and presents to the night that Jesus was born to mean piles of presents under a large tree and a fat man in a red suit who is more important than the true message. “Greedy Commercial Dollar signs = happy people” have ripped cultures and beliefs to shreds with their “To get is better than to give” advertisements. Thanksgiving has been an ongoing sham of embracing the Native American culture when in all truth the only gifts given by the Pilgrims to the Native Americans was disease, rape and murder. Choke that one down with a piece of turkey why don’t you.
While we all believe the world will end, both Cathy & Blanca believe it won’t be in our life time. As for myself, I am unsure, though it’s all happening in front of our eyes with earthquakes and flood, famines, and diseases, who’s to say when the end will ‘actually’ happen. Whenever it happens, both Cathy and I don’t want to be here for the end while Blanca is anxious to find out what will happen at the very end. As for other life forms, they both have their theories. While Cathy enjoys watching Ancient Aliens, one of Blanca’s theories is our blood. How our veins are green on the outside but our blood turns red when it it hits air. I don’t believe in other life forms myself but am intrigued nonetheless by both of their viewpoints.
By the end of our conversation I had formed a close knit bond to these two vey different women whom I would’ve thought once upon a time had nothing in common with myself. These intriguing passionate women gave me a deeper understanding about the minds of women and how the main topic isn’t always about designer clothes, vacationing in Europe or men in bed. These women took simple conversation to a whole other level. In the end I found out that we weren’t as different as I had imagined. Do I consider it a valuable form of education? You bet your bottom I do. Group together a handful of people from different cultures, races, beliefs, and lifestyles and we can find out more about ourselves, our History and improving our world than any textbook or self help seminar. It’s about letting go of the stereotypes we were given at an early age of not being able to get along with someone who is not the same. They got it wrong, I know that now. With my open and hungry mind, I let in two beautiful strong thinkers who have made me feel just as important with my beliefs as I have in theirs. We are the new educators, the compassionate, experienced teachers with values and lessons to talk about. We were all gifted with a brain. It’s time to give “Big Brother” the boot and begin thinking and sharing while it’s still legal!
A special Thank You to Cathy and Blanca who shared their beliefs and opinions with a total stranger. I now have two new sisters whom I can’t wait to see again. Thank You to Phillip for leading me in the right direction of meeting new people (especially female.) Thanks Cathy for reading my blog!!