miércoles, junio 18, 2008

Walking on Shoreline

I just walked two miles on the shore line. It was wonderful!

I carried my stolen stainless steel water bottle for hydration and protection. It felt pretty safe there. Not nearly as many people as the Lake (which feels very very safe) but also not as many dogs or goose shit. I was thrilled to find two water fountains on my walk, where I recharged.

I passed a pile of doggy doo and then thought about the bag in my pocket, thought about having to see it again on my way back, and then doubled back to pick it up and throw it away. I am feeling very virtuous about this--which means I am not truly virtuous, or I wouldn't have to brag about it. But still.

I was originally going to walk at the Lake, but as soon I as got into my car (which is actually a solar oven: I can't believe I've been wanting to BUY a solar oven when I already drive one) I decided it would prob'ly be too hot and maybe funky at the Lake (see goose shit above) and that it's always cooler by the ocean. So I went. I dutifully texted my husband, so that she wouldn't think I had been absconded with.

There was an oil spill recently, so the beach itself was closed but the walking path was open. There were lots of folks in "Public Works" helmets and vests around. And horses. (because horses are not affected by things like oil spills? I think not). And I saw something big in the water, I thought maybe it was seals, but it turned out to be Ginormous Pelicans. Dark ginormous pelicans, so I worry maybe they were oily. they were hanging out together and stretching their ginormous pelican necks.

I have confirmed that The Wiz (original broadway cast) is the best music for walking. "Though you know your walking might be long sometimes/ you just keep on stepping and you'll be just fine".

I've asked Nora and Jolene (not their real names) for advice about our wireless situation. I suppose I should check online to compare the range of an average apple airport with some of the other routers. They are tugging on their network of friends and family to find me some answers.

I was thinking about L*'s mother Vivian (not her real name) today. She also lives near the coast: just about six blocks away. And she enjoys her morning walk when it's not too cold. She has a neighbor, a grouchy old guy, with a new dog, I think I chocolate lab. Full of energy, fun, will come up to you with a ball to throw. (the dog, not the grouchy guy). Anyway, the guy puts his dog in the car to drive the six blocks to the ocean, to walk and play with the dog. Maybe he just doesn't do sidewalk?

I also ate a "sweet lemon" today. A sweet lemon is not actually sweet: it's just not sour. It's like somebody took all the sour away from the lemon but left the lemon there. And the bite is still there. So it's actually a little like eating a lemon peel. But my very old neighbor, don Eladio (not his real name) gave me the lemon, like it was the first time, even though he's done this like four times now, and said "Taste this! It's as sweet as sugar!" The other times I've picked a little at the lemon, but today I decided to actually eat it.

domingo, junio 15, 2008

Something I actually did fix

I'm always writing to Nora and Jolene [not their real names], asking them for directions on a project which I never actually do. Today I actually did something, though, albeit not something for which they had given me directions.

Apparently, I have been simmering in renter's resentment for three years. Three years of things that the landlord never fixes. Three years of things that you tell him about and he promptly forgets. Or responds several months later "Oh, you didn't mention it again so I thought it fixed itself."

I hear tales of people who call the landlord for every little thing, and it is immediately fixed. I growl softly, under my breath. Clearly, I mutter, they are not renting from somebody's younger brother. A mental gesture to all the men in this world who don't see what there is to be done until their older sister tells them. All the men just like me.

So now we are buying this house. We are either going to close this Friday (Please, God, let it be this Friday, as L* says) or on the first of July. One or the other. Almost for sure.

And L* has been working on her garden. Planning her future garden. We bought a book on square foot gardening and I even read it. L* built an amazing shrine today full of color and beauty and life.

And I actually did fix something. I was washing my face in the kitchen sink, because the water pressure in the bathroom is so pathetically weak, it's too frustrating to try to wash your face in there. And as I was face first in the towel, I thought about when the plumber came to fix the washing machine, and when he saw how pathetically weak our water pressure was in the kitchen sink, he borrowed one of my sewing needles and fixed it.

And then I went into the bathroom and eyed the faucet in the sink. I went and got a pair of pliers out of the pantry, and unscrewed the little thingy. I peered into it and saw teeny tiny little rocks blocking the holes. I got out a sewing needle and pried them out. Rinsed it well, and screwed the thingy right back on.

And there was flow! We are still rejoicing in the flow.

L* was very very happy when I showed her. Happier even than rejoicing in the flow. It turns out she was so happy because I saw the problem, and rather than lamenting it or resenting it, I put my noggin together with my initiative and actually fixed it.

Now I am eyeing the bathtub faucet, which does not have an handy little aerator to remove and clean out. And wondering what it would take to fix the flow. And thinking of that book that we used to have (okay, that I stole from my mom), which described 101 things to do around your house. So now I'm thinking of getting another book like that. (sans larceny) and of actually fixing something else.

viernes, junio 13, 2008

the children

I'm a the public library, where the kids are all
competing heavily in the summer read-a-thon.

For perhaps the millionth time,
I get the idea that you, me, and all our smartest friends
should get rich writing children's books.

a little munchkin has sat down at my table.
she is trying to read comic books
that are above her reading level. too cute.
"I'm going to find a magazine to read" she says.
her dad strolls by to make sure she's okay and that I have no designs on her.

this is ever so much more interesting than working on a tenure file.

a six(?) year-old boy says of the (latina) munchkin,
"wow, that's girl's small. and she knows english"

he himself knows chinese and is chinese, he announces.


a girl ran by who looks just like my friend wendy amai from forty years ago
(even though I only met wendy amai thirty-five years ago.)

the two boys sorting through the comic books announce
"I can't stop itching like a dog"

Here in Oakland, libraries provide the function of free day care.
So now that school is out, the libraries are bursting with kids,
whose parents dropped them off this morning and will be returning
for them after work.


a litter of pre-teens was escorted outside for a 15 minute time out.

the little munchkin has starting squealing
"I'm not screaming! I'm not crying!
I want some pizza!"

her (Anglo) dad calmly leads her out the door,
announcing "a little too late."

"for what," ask the librarians.

"for naptime."

"pizza! pizza! pizza!"

I'm lonely now.
I know I could fit at least a couple of these kids into my backpack.

[Nora writes to me that on no account am I to do this,
unless I plan to barbecue them. Nora takes pride
in her complete lack of maternal impulses. towards humans]


the librarian with the frizzly hair
has her own meltdown
and drives the moneylending
preteens from the marketplace.
Or the temple.
something like that.

One of the little charmers
speaks of the librarian in the third person
"she's got issues!"

fortunately, before the librarian with the frizzly hair
resorts to violence, her cheerful butch librarian friend
comes to her rescue.


only the second day of summer vacation
and already banished from the library.
a poemlet:

the children who were driven
from the house of books
mill about the entrance
eyes hungry
faces blank
surely, nothing they had done
has called down this banishment.
the powers that be
are obviously
having a bad day.

domingo, abril 06, 2008

Hipsters, Samson, and family vacations

This semester I'm teaching 2 classes of first-year students. (My third class has students from all levels, including a lot who will be graduating this spring). It makes me think about how we re-invent ourselves. A new school, in particular, is always an opportunity to re-invent yourself. You can declare a new diminutive to your name or insist on the name in its longest form. You can be vague about your your background, your history. You can become a cultural nationalist, or queer, when previously you were assimilationist or homophobic. (I say this having gone through all of these transformations, myself.)

I'm starting to notice a pattern in school vacations, though, and their effect on the students' self-invention. And it is manifested in hair. Last semester, for example, this big white dude had this big hair! It was like the redheaded guy from Room 222. I mean it was huge!

After thanksgiving, he came back with a shorn head and baseball cap. Which to me, means he went home for the holiday, and his mama took one look at him and grabbed him by the earlobe and dragged him to the barber.

Or that girl with the weave: it was really well-maintained but also just looked like a cap of braids sitting on her head. She came back from spring break with a new crop that is much more flattering to her face.

But one of the guys, a long-haired Latino, also came back with a shorn head, and it kind of made me sad.

Maybe because I agree with parents whipping their teenagers into shape when it looks like they have "no home training." (Personally, I would like to send them photos of their kids walking around campus in pajamas and yes, girl, a towel!--did someone steal her clothes while she was swimming?) But when the kid's self invention challenges gender norms--even a little bit--then it seems more like a squashing. I don't particularly think that this kid is queer (certainly in Chicano studies long hair on a boy is not a clue to his sexual identity. In fact the gay guys tend to have short haircuts. and good product.) but his long hair was cool and lovely. And now he looks like a baby bird.

sábado, marzo 29, 2008

Writing in the dark

I'm sitting all alone in the dark and I'm not even depressed. This is weird. Apparently my illness this week kept us both from finding out about Earth Hour, when everyone is supposed to turn off their lights at 8pm. L* was in Santa Cruz visiting her parents. They told her and she called me. She's still not home by eight, so I dutifully turn off all the lights. Actually she didn't tell me it was earth hour, she said "you're supposed to turn off your lights at eight" and so I didn't really know how long I was supposed to keep them out.

Not very long, it turns out because there my doorbell rang. My neighbor, Sherri, is brining us some home-made minestrone, so I turn on a couple of lights and give Sherri some heartfelt thanks. (I had no plan for dinner, since L* made dinner for her parents). Then I got turned off the the lights again and got online to find out what the deal is. Ah, there's L* driving up now. Now I don't have to be alone in the dark.

miércoles, marzo 26, 2008

Happy sounds

I'm feeling much better today. the cough is still there but the unrest in the badlands has been resolved. L* and I are planning a de-tox housecleaning. starting with the bedding and working our way out. I wonder, should we wash the curtains too? It is spring, after all.

Asthma and allergies have been really bad all around, and I haven't even been running the air purifier, since it's pre-filter needs to be replaced. arugh.

A quick trip to the Food Mill to stock up on non-toxic cleaners. While I was up yesterday morning, i watched a slew of green shows on the Discovery Home Channel, and with all the info about non-toxic cleaners I just kept thinking about all the respiratory issues L* and I both have, and feeling like we really need to be going that route.

L* is outside helping our elderly neighbor Eleazar plant his beans.

Oh, so, happy sounds! What are your happy sounds? No matter how low I'm feeling there's always one sound that makes me so happy. It's this shuffle-shuffle-run-stamp L* does when she's chasing one of our cats around the house. It's extra noisy so that the kitty knows she's coming and has a chance to race away to safety.

On the flight out to Austin, I finished reading B.D. Wong's Following Foo, about childbirth, parenthood, etc. Really tremendously moving. Prob'ly should be required reading for all prospective parents. But anyway, at the risk of spoiling the book for you, the part that spoke most strongly to me (and note that I wept several times while reading this book) was a the very end, when he says
There isn't just one dramatic thing that happens in your life that makes you "get it" forever.

Which to me mean, that even when you go through these traumatic life-changing experiences, when you make it through them, you're still you. You're not some transcendent know-it-all who suddenly has all her shit together.

martes, marzo 25, 2008

Post-conference Doldrums, household hopes

L* and I are back from the big NACCS conference in Austin, Texas.

We arrived at noon, got all cleaned up, and went out to look at open houses in the realty world.

This one house had come on the market for $300,00 and we just couldn't believe it was real. We had to go see it. And the buyers were out in droves for houses in our price range. For example, the 300k house was not having an open house on Sunday. But as we were peeking through the gate, this nice lesbian mamilia pulled over and told us how to get in through the back yard. And while we were there, another lesbian couple came by and chatted it up with us. It was gorgeous on the outside (though a lot of work!) but the inside had been "flipped" in one of those not so great ways. (wood laminate and marble or faux marble tiles) and the money had clearly run out before the project was done. There were already two offers in on it by the end of the day.

We called Our Realtor Friend (ORF) and asked if she could take us to see the inside of that one and a couple of others this week.

It was easter sunday (funny how that slipped away in it all) and as we went over to the natural grocery store to pick out the greens and yummies for our dinner, we decided instead on an Easter supper: mustard-crusted tofu batons, asparagus, whole wheat crackers with fig tapenade. It was yum and delightful.

and then the awful sickiness grabbed hold of me and gave me the beat down. Maybe it was all the virtual whuppings from all the all those facebook zombies, and slayers, and vampires finally catching up with me. Let's just say that there was terrible turmoil in the digestive badlands, both north and south.

(my hair held up surprisingly well through all of that. Note to self: Must blow-dry with laminates more often)

that was sunday night. monday and tuesday disappeared (for me) in a feverish haze of sleep.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday meant a load of work for L*, because her grades were due Tuesday, and what with all the traveling, conferencing, and writing two new presentations, she was tired and still had a lot of work to do.

The retching girlfriend installed in the master bedroom didn't make for the best of working conditions. But she stocked me up with seven-up, organic bananas and organic applesauce.

L* went out to work in internet cafes which would feel less like a sick room. She worked like a trooper too: grades for all classes in by Tuesday afternoon. She starts teaching three new classes next week, so the work isn't really done for now.

She did find time to do the house tour with ORF and that just had her mind click-click-clicking too. Thinking about the the 500k house on the same street as the 300k one, except the work was all done really nicely, with mature fruit trees and a fabulous deck, and space for all the raised beds of L's dreams. for prob'ly, what? $1000 to $2000 more per month (than what we're paying now). It's so overwhelming and crazy.

It's easy to fall in love with houses we can't afford.

Turns out one of the other houses we were looking at--the ugliest house on a great block--was actually an indoor pot farm complete with a pit bull. (that explains the odd sheds in the backyard).

L* is working tremendously hard on the house hunt. After finishing grading today, she went out for a healthy dinner and then cruised by nine more properties.

I'm finally feeling a little better. Drinking big mugs of sport tea (black, green, and some máte plus electrolytes) and I actually ate a banana and had some applesauce. My body wants all the drugs that keep me at peace with my environment (antihistamines, decongestants) but I'm too afraid to try them.

I watched a show this afternoon called Greenovate, where this co-housing duplex (gay couple with daughter downstairs, single woman with daughter upstairs) did all the kinds of things we think about. Full house water filter (so you're not bathing in cancerous chlorine). Reverse osmosis water filter in kitchen so you can drink great water all the time, without trucking it in from france in plastic bottles. Recycled glass tiles. Just in terms of healthy living, it was so great. On the other hand, it was a lot of work, the downstairs guys went way over budget, and were only able to do their bathroom, rather than both the bathroom and the kitchen. I think they'd budgeted $40k and 40 days (no, too symmetrical, I must be wrong on one of the numbers) for both units. The upstairs lady ripped out her wall-to-wall carpet and gave it to someone who would re-use it. The show was one of those "isn't this great!" shows, meaning they played down the expenses and what goes wrong. Some of those home-improvement shows are the "what did we get ourselves into" variety, and sometimes it feels like you get a more realistic sense of what's involved.

I think L* should start a new show for HGTV, for the new economy. It's a cross between Doug Wilson's "Moving Up" where he shows the old owners what the new owners have done to their house. and "If Walls Could Talk" (most boring show ever--yes, there are alternatives worse than the test pattern!) in which people renovating old houses find interesting things from the past. ("Interesting" is, of course, in the eye of the beholder). So L*'s show would be called something like "What's the story." it's for the new economy, because everybody is buying these houses that are foreclosures, reposessions, short sales. L* does the Ph.D. research behind each house we look at, so she can see the sketch of the storyline: what was the original plan? What went wrong?

martes, enero 22, 2008

Open House hobbyists

One of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon is to go visit the real estate open houses in Oakland. We've been going for quite a while: a year and a half, actually, and seen a lot of changes. The realtors all know us by face. That's not really a good thing: we represent the hard-to-convince prospective buyer who's prob'ly just wasting your time.

Also, sometimes we suffer from absent-minded professor x 2. As on this Sunday when we walked into to a house only to realize we'd already been there two weeks earlier. The (same) realtor looked at us skeptically, "Did you come back to buy?"

She knew we hadn't: on our previous visit we'd pointed out oddities like the extension cords running across the baseboards, and the cracked plaster behind the potted plant.

We complain about lots of stairs, because we won't be able to climb them when we're old. We walk into expensively-flipped kitchens and proclaim "hideous!"

L* has an innate sense of direction, so she usually knows which neighborhoods we're in, what we've seen before, and she's been keeping an eye on which houses have sat on the market, which are new listings, and which are bank-owned.

Me, I'm more like those people with short-term memory loss: every day is a surprise.

Lately we've been around Maxwell Park, Millsmont, and some other little area with all these "storybook" houses.

L* likes to chat up the realtors. Even the hooty lesbian one who one time told us we needed to look "on the other side of the freeway." She apparently has the same short-term memory problem as I, since the next time she saw us she radar-focused on L* and said "I"d love to meet to talk about your dream home." All my femme hackles came out and I've all but hissed at her every time we've seen her since.

We saw two houses we liked last weekend. Both of which are almost in our price range. Of the blue one, which I liked, L* said "I don't know if we're up to it. It's kind of a 1920's glam. We're more mid-century rasquach." That is, it might be too much effort for us to try to live up to the 1920's glam. Yeah, we could get the blue velvet couch that L* has been wistful about, but what will we do about the cat hair?

Well, we're in no hurry (at least until our landlord decides to put our house on the market).

sábado, enero 19, 2008


Okay, we are now both officially democrats. Or I am, anyway. My card came yesterday. L* will be official on Tuesday (the next business day). We had to re-register in order to vote in the primary.

I had a lot of confidence in the guy at the Lake Merritt farmer's market who took L*'s voter registration. Unlike the folks on the SFSU campus. I think they get paid per card or something, but they don't necessarily every send the forms on. No, really, I had to register like three times when we first moved back to California, because the first two never went through. If there's one thing I hate, it's going to vote and only being allowed to cast a "provisional" ballot.

The Sign

jueves, enero 17, 2008


I got called for Jury Duty. Had to defer again! I know! I must be the only person in the country who really wants to be on a jury. A runaway jury. Why didn't they call me at the beginning of January? I have most of the month off and am just eager to come down to the courthouse. But no, they call me for the second week of classes. I'm deferring again in the hopes that they'll call me early in August when I will again have time to do my civic duty. But even if they wait till late September, I MUST go next time. It's the LAW.

I know. I'm kidding myself. Like they're really going to put a professor of (queer) ethnic studies on a jury. Yeah right. that's really going to happen. But it could! Maybe I could be vague in my job description: education. What do you teach: critical thinking. Or no, better to say science fiction rather than critical thinking. Then they'll think I'm totally out of touch with the real world, and I'll have better chance to get in.

Back to The Borderlands...


No, that's not my biological time clock. It's the timer counting down to the start of spring classes.

I know all the rest of you teacher types are already hard at it: L* is in her second week of classes, after all. But my semester doesn't start till next week. I'm re-tooling the science fiction class, "Race, Gender, Science Fiction." Background information: I've been developing this class for years, at three different institutions. Every time I've been able to teach it, the enrollment has been really small. My record high was twelve students. This semester, I'm trying it out as SFSU's first ethnic studies class that is wholly online. The student response thus far has been, overwhelming. There are currently forty-nine students enrolled and ten students on the wait list. And it's one of three classes on science fiction being offered this semester (the other two are in the English department).

The syllabus is very close to finished, although I'm disappointed not to be able to squeeze in more films. That's okay, though, because Cinema Studies offers a Science Fiction class (just last semester, in fact) which includes the Alien films, the Matrix films, and Children of Men. So I'm settling for the original Planet of the Apes and a lot of TV episodes. (Dark Angel, ST: TNG, The X-Files.) The books I'm using are fantastic. Octavia Butler's Dawn, Samuel R. Delany's Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand and Sesshu Foster's Atomik Aztex (you should hear me making conversation about the latter at a cocktail party!). The last time I taught this, the students read all three books of the Xenogenesis series, which they finished way ahead of schedule.

I'm still finalizing the course requirements. I'm dropping some of my previous strategies (student journals, creative projects, blogs) in favor of more structured discussion on the class forums. L* has helped me a lot on this class, because she's the master of the online class. I've been reading over her syllabi and just been wowed by how well she constructs her classes.

I'm also teaching two sections of Critical Thinking this semester. I do believe this is the first time I've taught two sections of the same class since I became a professor! I'm using an anthology Re-Reading America which I've used before. I always say I'm not going to use it, I'm going to put together my own reader. And then I start marking the pieces that I want to go in the reader: Malcolm X, Melvin Dixon, Inés Hernandez-Avila, Langston Hughes, and the next thing I know, I've marked fifteen or so pieces from the same book. It annoys me, though, to see what they've taken out in subsequent editions: Leslie Marmon Silko, Jimmy Santiago Baca. And instead we have the same Richard Rodriguez excerpt that appears in almost every freshman composition reader.

I'm starting to sound like my old grad-student self again, when I complained that the first edition of the Norton Anthology of Women's Literature included not one Chicana writer, although they felt the need to include all of "Jane Fucking Eyre."

And the discussion questions really assume a white middle-class readership. That means, though, that we'll get to critique the discussion questions, take them apart, see arguments they're implying or stereotypes that they're buying into. And of course I'll bring in some supplements: the poetry of Mohja Kahf, Pat Mora, and the late Diane Burns, to name a few.

We really do need to publish our own reader though. I'll have to write that in on the ten-year plan. In the meantime, though, there's another timer running down for a book review that's due now, so I'd better get back to work.

martes, enero 15, 2008

Good Eats

L* wants us to try one totally new recipe (or totally new ingredient) every week. We're thinking of joining our local CSA, as soon as we figure out our closest pickup point. That'll mean we'll be getting produce that's local and in-season, which will call for some creative cooking on our part.

L* has already gotten the jump on that though, with a recipe using dino kale. It's amazing stuff: I see it growing in our neighbor's front yards. (That's one of the things I love about living in Fruitvale: people grow vegetables in their front yards) So L* found a recipe for mustard-crusted-tofu with kale and sweet potatoes. One word: Yum! No, two words: Healthy yum! It was so delicious. The kale was cooked with lime juice and ginger and wasn't at all bitter -- and I had tasted it raw while I was cleaning and chopping and I was very afraid of the bitterness "It sure is kale-y" is what I said, "This must be a cruciferous." But cooked it was tender and tasty and not at all "kale-y."

The reviews of the recipe said a lot of people found that the mustard didn't stick well to the tofu, and L* certainly experienced that, but it was totally delicious. We wondered if it would stick better if the tofu was first dusted with flour (or dipped in egg and then flour). Totally delicious!

Then last night, we had our second totally new recipe in two days! Singapore noodles! L* saw the egg noodles at Berkeley bowl and couldn't resist them. She cooked them up with shiitake mushrooms, green onions, curry powder and I don't know what all. It made a mountain of noodles but we ate every last one. Not as healthy as some of our other meals (noodles ≠ whole grain) but very yum.

We also received a wonderful care package from Julien in Miami: three delicious teas, two green and one black (chai). Mmmmm. We're going to become tea connoisseurs, that's us. (geez, I had to look up how to spell both shiitake and connoisseur. I must be out of practice)