Friday, December 30, 2011

I knead you

Getting ready for work, almond butter and jam on bread, "What did the baker say to the bread?" snicker to myself. Alone in the kitchen with the joke I just made up. "I told myself a joke I didn't know," I think, which is the punch line to another joke I know, I laugh more.

Later, at work with my boss and a co-worker, "Hey I made up a joke!"
"Are we going to like it?"
"Okay, let's hear it."
"What did the baker say to the bread?"
"No idea."
"I knead you," I can barely say the last word, "you" comes out as more of a shriek of held back laughter, I clap my hands and tears come out of my eyes from laughing.
Straight faces on my boss and co-worker.
"On that note, I'm going back to my office now," my boss walks out the door.
Co-worker stares at his computer.
I'm still laughing.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I wish I could share everything I'm feeling with you just like pouring water. I'd pour and you wouldn't say, "Oh yes, I see," because you wouldn't see, you'd just feel what I wasn't saying. I love words, but sometimes they're just not enough.

Thank You Card for my Dentist and Assistants

Dear Dr. Guzman, Angelica, and Michelle:

I used to have nightmares about my teeth falling out, which symbolized stress according to some dream interpretation book I read someplace. For me I think it symbolized stress about my teeth falling out, mostly because my teeth were in danger of falling out. But due to too many painful dentist experiments experiences, the reality of dental work was scarier than the nightmares of tooth loss.

Then I started coming to you.

Thanks to your careful hands, reassuring explanations, and prescription drugs, I learned to be much less calmer and less scared. I haven't had a single dental nightmare, awake or asleep, since I started coming to you. Even better, for the first time since I was like, 10, all my teeth are fixed.

Thank you.
Thank you so much.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Learning to Cut a Chicken

"Ma, I want to learn to cut a chicken," I say, imagining myself crawling through the underbrush with a snare made from twisted yucca fibers, guided by the intimate knowledge of where the quail run and what their habits are. I imagine catching a quail in my snare and slitting it's throat and bleeding it out and then... my imagination stops there. I don't know enough about what comes next to even imagine it. Even if I knew enough to catch a quail I wouldn't know what to do with it once I killed it. Like that one time that quail flew out in front of my car and smashed on the bumper before I could even blink. Intending to eat it, I went back for it and put it in the back of my car. It stayed there until the dead animal smell made me throw it in to some road side bushes.

"Okay Diana," my mom replies. She has a whole chicken defrosting in a pot on the counter.
"I know I should just cut it so I remember better, but I'll just watch you do it," I tell her.
"Well no, Diana, I'm going to show you how, but you are going to do it. Why don't you want to cut it?"
"I don't want to get my hands chicken-y."
My mom makes a face, "You're going to get your hands chicken-y."
"Oh," I reply.

My mom sharpens her knife. I imagine the chicken cutting knowledge going back through my mom and my grandmothers, back in time to the days when there were chickens running in the yard of my great great grandmother. I imagine this knowledge coming forward in time, passed down from mother to mother. For a moment I feel really connected to my family.

After pulling the neck, the heart, the liver and some other parts out of the inside of the chicken, my mom advises, "I learned from a book, so if you forget, you can look it up somewhere."
"Oh," I say.
"I start with the wings, wiggle them so you find where they connect, then cut through the joint."
I wiggle the dead chicken wings.

After she shows me how to cut the wings and the legs, then we have just the chicken carcass.
"Now this part is a little harder," she takes over the knife, "look for where the ribs meet the other ribs, see in there?"
"Yeah," I say, head hanging over the abyss that is the inside of the chicken. My mom deftly cuts through the difficult parts. She shows me how to cut through the wish bone, the breast. I imagine her years of practice making her graceful, the difficulty of the dead chicken not getting the best of her. She is so quick.
"A butcher can cut up a chicken in about 3 seconds," she mentions.
"Oh." I say.

All the chicken pieces are in the sink now. My mom shows me how to cut the skin off the legs and thighs so the soup won't be as fatty. She tells me not to cook the liver in the soup or it will make it bitter. She shows me how to press the blood out of the legs and thighs. She tells me if you don't press it out it will bubble out when you boil the chicken. "Does that make the soup bitter?"
"No, it's just gross."

We are done cutting the chicken. I sit down at my computer to write.
"Diana, get back here, you have to clean off the cutting board."

Friday, December 23, 2011


Acorns. They're all different. Each oak species has it's signature shape, color, size, bitterness, sweetness. Or so I've heard. So far, all my attempts at eating them have been unsuccessful. Still, they are not just food to me. I squirrel them a way in corners of my life. Recently I opened the zipper of an old bike bag and about fifty old dry ones rolled out, along with my allen wrenches. I used to carry them in the center console of my car. Sometimes I'll find one that I like and keep it in my pocket for days, like a worry stone, but with more life.

I am an old oak
branches hanging low
darkened by the storm
burnt hollow.
Rain collects inside:
a calm black pool of sorrow.

Something beautiful is growing here.

An older song, a newer bag of acorns.
"Do you want to collect acorns or watch a movie?"
"Collect acorns!!"
We want to make cookies, my niece and I. I've never done it before, and neither has she. Acorns hold all kinds of possibilities.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Enormous hollow legs.

"Ahh, I'm so hungry, I'm just constantly hungry," I said earlier. 
"That's because of your enormous hollow legs," my brother, Sami said. 
Grandma Millie and my mom laughed, "her legs aren't enormous!" they said. I looked down at my legs poking out of my shorts. They looked wimpy to me, not all muscly like when I was in the field all the time.
"Yeah they are!" Sami said, "look at her calves! They're bigger than mine!" 
We compare our calves. I flex on my tiptoes.
"Damn!! Look at that muscle, yours is way longer than mine," Sami points out the muscle that extends below the other muscle, not knowing that that muscle is longer on women than men, so of course it's longer than his.
"That's because I'm a girl, and that muscle is longer on girls," I say. But Sami is still impressed at my enormous legs. 
I stand on the steps, watching my calves flex and un-flex, feeling my muscles. I don't think that's why I'm hungry, and my legs don't look enormous to me, but it's nice to appreciate my muscles anyway.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Imagined offering him an apricot.

There was a guy on the bus ride home just now, he smelled pretty bad. He sat in the very back, a few seats away from me.
"Dumb bitch. Stay outta my way," he said, "stay outta my business motherfucker, dumbass bitch."
He wasn't talking to me.
"Dumb bitch."
He wasn't talking to anyone I could see.
I tried to watch him without making eye contact.
The woman sitting next to me got up and moved towards the front of the bus. Another woman sitting directly in front of him continued to talk on her phone. I accidentally made eye contact.
"Motherfucker, standing in the road," he peeled an orange with a knife. I didn't see the knife, I just saw the cut orange peels accumulating on the floor between his feet.
I imagined him attacking me.
I imagined holding my feet out in front of me to protect myself.
I imagined offering him an apricot from the bag on my lap.
I imagined saying, "it sounds like you are pretty upset."
The woman sitting in front of him moved to the front of the bus.
For a couple of blocks I was the only one in the back of the bus with him.
I thought about the invisibility of being homeless. The loneliness of mental illness. I don't know if he was either of those things.
I watched two more guys get on the bus, sit down, cover their noses, look around, make faces to each other. They looked at me. I looked at the ceiling and pretended I wasn't concerned that they would think it was me that smelled.
I imagined inviting the guy over to my house to shower.
I imagined washing his clothes, lending him a bathrobe in the meantime.
I imagined him waiting outside my door, for my own safety's sake.
I imagined him getting angry at me when I imagined explaining why I wanted him to wait outside.
I moved to the front of the bus.

In the end it wasn't the smell, or the concern that he had a knife, or worrying that he might attack me. It was those other two guys thinking it might be me that smelled bad. I wanted to walk by them, I wanted them to smell me as I walked by so they would know.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dinosaur theft is a serious offense, worthy of hate.

"How are you?"
"I'm tired. I've been working a lot. But I'm mostly happy. How are you?"
"I'm good."
"Have I told you how I think you are such a wonderful person, and you are so funny and I just LOVE you?"
"I hate Jack."
"What? You don't hate Jack."
"Yes, I hate him a little."
"Se roba mis dinosaurios."
My niece is five and I just think she is such a wonderful person and so funny and I just LOVE her (and apparently I've said that before). We've been talking on the phone lately, which is better than eating candy. I had never heard her say she hates someone. But dinosaur theft is a serious offense. Especially when you love dinosaurs as much as Taiana does. However, I figure she doesn't really know what hate is. I see her in my head pulling up a chair to help my mom cook dinner, "I help?" she likes to ask. Hate seems like such an innocent emotion when I imagine it in this little person I love.

After hanging up the phone, I imagine what it might feel like to hate Jack. Jack the energetic boy who runs around non-stop. Taiana, normally very talkative and assertive, is passive around Jack. I imagined him taking her dinosaurs and telling her what to do and I imagine her silently feeling hate towards him.

This one time, years ago, I'd been having a lot of roommate trouble and was talking to my wise friend Randy about it all.
"I feel like I hate her," I told him.
"Well you do hate her," Randy said.
"No, but I don't actually hate her, I just feel like I hate her," I clarified.
"Well, that's what hate is, it's a feeling," Randy pointed out.
"But this is not permanent, it will pass," I pointed out back.
"Well that's what feelings are. They're temporary. You hate her."
Randy was right of course; I've carried that perspective on hate with me since then.

I'm not sure when it happens that so many women learn to be passive, but I know it happens. It's happening in my niece, and I almost don't recognize it because it's so shrouded in cuteness. Taiana and Jack are both such cute kids. And anyway, who am I to say a five year old girl can't feel hate for a boy that is her friend? I realize I just told my niece that she wasn't feeling what she said she was feeling. I hate when people do that to me. I hate feeling silenced, disempowered, unheard.

Suddenly I'm glad I'll be visiting in less than a week. This is an opportunity to help her learn something too many girls don't learn. After all, hate is just a temporary feeling (even if it is self-perpetuating). Silence can be temporary, too, but often isn't.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Los tiburones comen carne.

Sometimes there's just too much to fit into this heart of mine.

Of course, that's just a metaphor. Of course it all fits. My heart is not actually swelling like a balloon, crowding my lungs. It just feels that way.

Like when I listen to music and my eyes tear up partly because it moves me so much, partly because that's a big part of what I want to be doing with my time and I'm not doing it. Or like when there are problems with my family.

Talking to my niece on skype a couple days ago, everything she said brought tears to my eyes. "Jim is... lavando los platos. Grandma Millie is... tomando," she said. "Do you like the beach?" I asked her. "Si, la playa," she replied. "Do you like to surf, like Tio Sami?" I asked. "No, porque hay tiburones. Hay tiburones buenos y hay tiburones malos. Y los tiburones comen carne."

"That's true," I told her. Los tiburones comen carne. My eyes dripped into my keyboard.

A friend of mine just became an uncle this week. The baby was about two weeks late and when it was finally born, he said, "I did it! I'm an uncle!" We were supposed to work that day, important paperwork and feedback after instructing a course. My friend could not concentrate, all he could do was stare at the baby pictures that came in on his iphone. All I could do was remember my own niece and appreciate that sometimes love for others is more important than paperwork.

I don't like babies, generally. They remind me of newborn rats, pink and helpless. Or little aliens. They don't usually look cute to me. (Yeah, my biological clock must be digital, because it's certainly not broken, and it certainly doesn't tick.) Except when I met my niece suddenly my whole life made sense. That's why I dedicate so much of my time to trying to make the world better in whatever small way I can. That's why I work in outdoor education. That's why I try to be kind and compassionate to strangers. And to my family. For her. For all those little babies I guess. For all of us. Becoming a Tia was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Personally, I don't believe in good sharks and bad sharks. Though I do believe in sharks, and I do believe they eat meat. And like us, they are just making one decision at a time. Some good, some bad. The sharks don't swim around thinking about how causing unnecessary suffering is bad. But I do. And it feeds into almost everything I do. And my heart swells.

Sometimes there's just too much to fit into this heart of mine. But that's just a metaphor. Really it all fits, even if it does leak out my eyes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Riding my bike.

Rode my bike home from work today for the first time. It took an hour. Hopefully my times improve. It's kind of impressive that riding the bus is only about 15 minutes faster than that. If I can improve my biking time to 45 minutes or less, then "the bus is faster" will no longer be my excuse for not riding my bike. That reduces my excuses to only
getting sick
feeling tired
rode my bike that morning and feel entitled not to this evening
rode my bike yesterday evening and feel entitled no to this morning
hating exercise
want to listen to This American Life on my ipod and I have to do it on the bus because it's not safe to have your ears plugged on your bike
flat tire
low tire pressure
was offered a ride
my feather earrings might get messed up in the wind
want to hitchhike
would rather walk because it's spring and on a bike I go too fast to see the flowers properly
too hot
don't care about climate change enough
my helmet is a little tight on my neck and I need to re-adjust the chin strap
have to carry my big backpack with me
have to carry my cello and my guitar with me
have to carry my acorn collection with me
my lunch is too heavy
carpal tunnel in my wrists is acting up
my gears need a tune up
don't want to increase my metabolism making me eat more making me spend more money on food
don't want to increase my health
don't want to breathe hard
don't want to sweat in my work clothes
don't want to carry my work clothes
don't want to take a shower at work
don't want to sweat in my biking clothes
don't want to take a shower at home
don't want to.

So I'll probably be riding my bike more now.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Even better.

Even better than falling asleep when you're tired is waking up when you've slept enough.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Button to push.

I wish there were a button to push to fix all the heartbreaks and cracks and bruises in the world. Or if not a button, then a lever to pull. Or a seed to plant. Soil to till. A string to pluck. A potted plant to water. Oh, if only there were a puppy to pet that would cure all our hearts. A peach to eat. Kale to sautee. Rocks to climb. A bike to ride. A creek to swim. A sky to watch. A walk to take. An egg to fry. Tea to steep. Song to wail. Carpet to vacuum. Tub to soak. Beard to shave. Poem to write. If only there were one minute to live through that would heal everything. As it is we just have to do all these things over and over and over until we are whole again. I guess. I hope.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One big coin.

Dude. Thinking about you today and imagining your severance pay as this one big coin with a picture of a tree being bulldozed on one side and gravity all sideways, and a picture of open doors and windows and open fertile fields and adventures on the other side. I don't know which side you are looking at, or if you've been able to see both, but either way my heart goes out to you and your times ahead. Big hugs and love to you. Let me know if there's anything I can do.


On a brick in the wall in a bathroom in a building that used to be a gold mine but is now a cafe in Placerville, I find the words, "Light is coming back as of today," which is a lyric in a song that my dear friend Sarah wrote. I find this while I pee during a tea break during a wandering walk down Main Street. Meanwhile my mom's first cousin's daughter gets married in a town nearby and half my family is there in heels and ties and I'm here because I came last minute to see my mom but wasn't really on the invitation so I am alone in a small town until I find this green marker graffitied evidence that one of my best friends has  been here, maybe peed in this same toilet and was looked upon and listened to with adoration for her music so much so that someone took it upon themselves to scrawl in the bathroom a note that today, to me, says I'm not as alone as I feel.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Currant Event

I sit in the sun in the courtyard outside my office. I stare at the plants, like I always do, and notice the currant bush has berries.
"The currant bush has berries!" I say to M, who has just come out of her office. I hold one up for emphasis. She looks at it. "It's an event," I say, and watch her face. No reaction. "It's an event," I say again, more expectantly, waiting.
"Aargh! I got it as soon as you said it," M.exclaims as she kicks me gently in the leg, then turns and runs back in to the office.
I laugh at my own cleverness and eat the berry. Mildly sweet with bitter seeds. I still think it was a good joke.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


A quarter, a dime, a dime, a dime, a quarter, another dime, another quarter. Forty three minutes and counting. I walk down 24th street away from my car. Folsom. Lucky. Treat. This is not my home town, but something feels like home. Taquería. Desayuno. Bakery.  It took a cello lesson to get me to leave my apartment where I've spent too much time missing L. and holding hands with Sorrow. Abarrotes. Wash and Dry. Cross the street. Dodge a scooter. Taquería Guadalajara. Mexicatessen (what kind of a word is that?). My eyes still feel like I've been crying, but not from the cello lesson. Cello is the highlight of my life right now. Platanos machos. Mango. Tomate roma. Onions. There is a laundromat somewhere here in San Francisco named "Washatería", which makes me laugh out loud every time. I can never remember where it is, so I always watch for it. Cross another street. Fine jewelry. Lucha libre masks. A woman explains something to her son on a scooter, holding him by the arm, speaking sternly and sweetly. Corner market. Yucca. Mandarina. Chiles secos. Apples. Ajo. I'm starting to wonder if I missed the place when finally, there it is, across the street, the tortillería. Tengo que cruzar la mitad de la ciudad para encontrar tortillas buenas. I haven't been here before. I just got tired of Trader Joe's tortillas. Inside I'm overwhelmed by things I've never found in the US: queso cotija, queso fresco, masa, seven kinds of salsa, those pulpa de tamarindo candies I used to eat in Secundaria. I've never bought masa before, I don't really know what to do with it.  I buy a pound anyway. I buy still-warm tortillas, some cheese, some salsa.

I walk back. Florida. Alabama. Harrison. I stop again for plátanos machos.  Compro 5 mangos enormes, tunas verdes, ajo, cebolla, limones, cilantro. I forget the plátanos machos. A woman holds out an empty cup. I imagine trading her a mango for a story, but don't stop. I start to notice there are lot of murals here. Back at the car. Eight minutes left on the meter. I drive towards home. I get lost. I find myself on Diamond Heights Road, where I've driven so many times with L. My insides ache a little, but I know my way home from here. My cello is in the back seat. My warm tortillas are in the front seat. I accidentally left Sorrow in the Mission district. She must have taken a wrong turn. That's okay. She'll call me when she wants to hang out again.

Courage, salivary glands and ulterior motives.

Normally, words pour out of me like strings of saliva from a big hairy dog's mouth- kind of plentiful, kind of a bodily function, kind of inappropriate depending on where it all lands. This blog has been giving me a hard time though. I'm very aware that this is a public place. Once I put it on here it's on the internet for all to see, and that's kind of scary. I've been trying to come up with blog posts that are a little censored, not write anything that I wouldn't want to share with anybody in my life or out of my life. And the result of that has been no blog posts. Apparently my writing comes from a place of openness and honesty. Straight from my salivary glands. I can swallow it or I can be real. I can be open and have a blog or I can be private and safe and not have a blog. So I'm mustering my courage and I'm just going to be my whole self on here, bring my feelings and loves and thoughts and bad puns.

Some friends have suggested I could have a private blog that is open only to my friends or people I invite. I considered that. But really, my reasons for wanting a blog are to promote myself. More specifically, promote my music, art and writing. I have my little website for music and art where things rarely change and I know that people will check back more often when there are interesting new things to see. Those are my ulterior motives: amass a following of blog followers who will help art opportunities come my way and who will hear about my music if I ever finish the other album I've been working on for three or four years. So a private blog wouldn't help me in that respect.

This promotion thing is funny to me because the album I have on my bandcamp page right now makes me cringe. I can't listen to it if other people are around, or I can't be there if other people are listening to it. I heat up and start to sweat. But that's another topic.

My non-ulterior motive for this blog is that I like to write. And I write better if I know someone will read it. It's fun.

Blogging has also been difficult lately because I want it to be good! I want my writing to dance with funny metaphors and glitter with genius. And that gets in the way of writing anything. So for this sort-of first entry, sort of third entry, I'm writing intentionally boring. Except for the salivary glands part. That was fun. But for the rest of this, I'm not trying to be funny or genius. I want your expectations to be low so it can just get better from here. Or maybe worse. No promises. Just drool.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blog Vows

I vow to write sporadically.
I vow to shamelessly plagiarize from my own journal, from letters and emails to friends, from my own songs, and from private poems written on scraps of paper for lovers.
I further vow to give partial credit or none at all to the source from which I took my own writing.
I vow to give full credit to writings that are not my own.
I vow to try to keep things interesting. At least to me.
Me comprometo a escribir en español de vez en cuando.
Me comprometo a no traducir nada de español a inglés o vice versa hasta que todo el sitio pueda ser bilingüe.
I vow to keep google translator in the sidebar just in case.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Story

My Grandma on my mom's side had three kids and won first place in a water ski circus in California by the time she was my age. At 86 she still wins at Scrabble and can drink me under the table. My Grampa flew helicopters for JPL and was a talented painter and craftsman. At his memorial, his watercolors, carved gourds, wooden toys, and acrylic paintings were displayed while a sleazy man with a long thin mustache played the saw. My mom said this would have pleased him.

My aunt went to Spain when she was 16, ran away from the home she was staying in, fell in love with a Spanish boy and almost married him. Then she decided she didn't want to be that poor and left him to become a successful business woman in California. "Don't ever depend on a man," she'd tell me, "always be financially independent." She still travels the world. My grandparents didn't know what to do with my impossible uncle, so they put him in the army. He died in Vietnam before I was born. My Grandma still feels guilty. I have his 12-string guitar.

My mom broke with rebellious family tradition to chase after her dream of having a family, and lived in Mexico for 25 years to raise us in a house on the beach where all her jewelry was stolen and water was brought in by truck every month. "I don't know how such a sweet woman came out of this old body of mine," my grandma sometimes says about Ma. She is my role model for honesty and unconditional love and support.

As for my Abuelita (on my dad's side), the only way out of, or in to, her village in Veracruz was by four or five hour boat ride along the river. She told me alligators climbed the trees along the river, so she was afraid to walk under them when she was a little girl. After she met my Abuelo and moved to Rosarito, she taught herself to sew without using any patterns, to support her three children. I got her sewing machine when she died.

My Abuelo, a communist atheist Jew, arrived from halfway around the world already a bitter man. At nine, he was an orphan in Poland. At 30, he was on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War and was put in a concentration camp in Morocco. He escaped to New York by walking across the desert carrying water in a flat canteen he'd made out of tin hidden against his body, then catching a boat in Portugal. He hated the U.S. and so moved to Mexico, which he hated less.

My Pa is a complicated, likable, intelligent, and disturbed man. A womanizer like his father, whose name he inherited. He taught math and chess at my high school and bought me my first guitar for eight dollars off a hitchhiker. It's still my favorite.

My older brother has the same name as my dad and has inherited all the pathology that comes with it. He once told me we are two sides of the same coin: I am the light and he is the dark. He is a talented storyteller and a lucid dreamer. His chest hair grows in the shape of a raven.

My little sister has three first names: one in Spanish, one in English, one in Nahuatl. Intensely social, she had few friends for years. She is the best bareback horse-woman in town, unless I'm around, that is. Dirty jokes are her favorite.

My niece wears princess dresses and hair clips while she tries to catch lizards or plays with her Hot Wheels cars. She greets me every day and after long absences by asking, "We go rock climbing?"

All this filters through my fingers, forms the lens of my eyes, is the air of my voice. This is where my music and art come from. This is how I write.