a holiday story for the holidays

it was night and clouds flew fast like butterfly wings, the ephemeral tendrils getting caught in the city's skyline. i had moved to new york two months earlier and was still caught up in my love of its utter differentness. being a die hard californian and bay area snob living in an environment like new york is like moving to another planet. and that's exactly where i moved, to brooklyn. it was october and i was unseasonably dressed in a floral print halter top, a swishy little skirt, candie's heels and a colander tied to my head (filled with real fruit no less). why? because it was halloween! only for this holiday of holidays would i have been caught in fall with a bare midriff in new york. halloween is my favoritest of holidays and as i clunked down 34th st in my wooden heels, one hand constantly checking to make sure my precarious fruit hat was still in place and striding resolutely to hide my shivering, i was overcome with the joy of being of being on my way to let the world know just how much i enjoyed this day. i was on my way to herald square to meet my roommate, put the finishing touches on our outfits and head to the village parade. somewhat deftly, only somewhat because i was still new to the city and hadn't mastered the art of walking there yet, i maneuvered around the crowds that never seem to leave some areas of manhattan and into the macy's that rules herald square.

into the elevator, up 8 stories and out again, i awkwardly presented my id to the guard at the human resources center, momentarily worrying that he might actually not believe me and the grumpy 18 yr old face on my licence were one and the same; he probably didn't care either way and was more intrigued by my unseasonal exposure than my identity. regardless, he let me pass and i wandered through the maze that is any bureaucratic office space to find my roommate. i found her in the staff lunch room chatting with a zombie, a vampire and a piece of celery. after bidding them adieu we headed down stairs to the makeup counter to the pieces du resistance of our costumes. some fake eyelashes here, a moustache there and a very generous application of foundation and eyeshadow everywhere and we were complete: i was the chiquita banana girl, she, my much older, much slicker man friend. decked out in peach slacks, tan loafers, black socks, a knock off louis vuitton fanny pack and a polyester floral shirt of mine that a year earlier had so transformed me my own family didn't recognize me (i'm sure my additional chest hair, sideburns and mustache didn't hurt either), all topped off with a shower cap perched on faux jheri curled hair. oh yeah, we were something, what i'm not exactly sure, a match made in poor quality underground porn heaven perhaps. regardless, we were bright and colorful and just that right mix of familiar and bizarre that made people smile and laugh as they passed us on the street.

down into the subway we went, chattering as we talked off the cold and built ourselves up for the night to come. still blah blahing about something i swiped my metrocard (craftily tucked in who knows where since i had no purse or pockets) and looked around to find that i was talking to myself alone on the other side. she'd realized she'd forgotten her metrocard at work and we yelled to each other over the heads of passengers, and the noise of the peruvian flute band behind me, that i would stay and wait while she went back. i looked around and spied a set of nearly empty benches to my left. i went and sat down, taking care not to move my head too much during the process lest my props/snacks for later fall out.

there was one other person on the bench, an older white woman, dumpy in a way that couldn't be blamed simply on genetics, with stringy blond hair and about as many teeth as fingers; she'd obviously been going through some things. she complimented me on my costume and asked how i had managed to get the colander to stay put; i should have known better than to answer. that simple question led to a conversation the likes of which i have never had with a stranger before or since; a few minutes later found her sitting next to me as i gave her advice on how to improve her relationship with her daughter. she was the wife of the lead flutist of the band that was resolutely playing all your favorite muzak jams on andean wind instruments across the way.
i glanced over at them, he was beautiful in that way that only perfectly brown people are, all smooth features and long black hair; i must say i was impressed. at this point i was slightly interested in her story, intrigued by the idea of these two aesthetically diametrically opposed people, so i ventured to ask why. apparently, and not totally surprisingly, that beautiful man was the source of her woe. he was apparently one of those men that just wouldn't do right; he was a man of the evening who drank too much, loved too many women and, at least it seemed this way to me, was just kind of a jackass. it appears that in this family the apple did fall far from the tree and her daughter had the sense to get out of dodge as soon as she was able, unfortunately, leaving her mother to fend for herself. to hear her tell it she was a victim, of both her outrageously attractive husband and her sensible daughter; one lacked pity, the other a conscience, and neither were in her corner. and i believed her, in a sense, saw how in the logic of her world she was indeed an innocent bystander to all this.

at some point i realized the absurdity of it all: a 22 yr old me dressed up as the chiquita banana girl with real fruit precariously strapped to my head discussing the trials and tribulations of a complete stranger in a subway station, with the crowning randomness of it being centered around the lead singer of a street peruvian flute band. but by then it was too late, having had the psychiatrist in me fairly intrigued and wooed, i then proceeded to break down what it was that was happening and ways in which she might improve her situation: step one, obviously, being to ditch the asshole adonis and do some independent soul searching, with step two being to try and reach a middle ground with her daughter. of course i also had slightly convoluted but well articulated ideas about how these goals might be accomplished, but it was halloween and i'd already been drinking by this point so i don't know what they are anymore. and i doubt it matters, even as the words left my mouth i knew she wouldn't listen, that i had essentially been used. she was one of those women who enjoyed the martyrdom of misery, loved the pity she received for having given herself to someone who would never return the gift, and would be unlikely to trade it for a life where she was accountable for her own problems.

at some point our conversation was cut off by the re-appearance of my roommate, giving me the, "really?", look as she approached our little impromptu session. i stood up, wished her well and disentangled myself from the life of this stranger. as we walked towards the stairs, me regaling my roommate with a just lived story, we passed the band and i took one last long look at the man that had broken at least two lives that i knew of and couldn't help but wonder if he knew, and if he knew that i knew. he caught my eye, briefly, and in that split second i could tell that he knew, and didn't care. i sent an extra wish of well being her way, and continued on mine.


a lazy woman's guide to kwanzaa

habari gani? it means what's the news in swahili and is the official greeting of the kwanzaa season. the answer: kwanzaa bitches! actually, please don't ever answer it that way, afro-centric black (and white for that matter) people would never forgive you. the real answer to that question is whatever the principle of the day happens to be. which today is umoja, unity.

before i even get into the history, a few things it might help to know. the terms used during kwanzaa are swahili, which, for whatever reason, was decided upon to be the official language afro-aware black people would use to celebrate their blackness ( i asked my dad, knower of all things random, and he believes it's because swahili is one of the only non-european languages that's spoken in more than one african country). here's a short list of key terms:

nguzu saba ( in-goo-zoo sah-bah) = the seven principles of kwanzaa

kinara (ken-are-ah) = the candle holder

ziwadi ( zuh-wah-di) = the gifts exchanged any given night

there are some other ones, but those are the most clutch. so now the history. kwanzaa was started by maulana (a swahili {big surprise, right} term meaning teacher or master) ron karenga, an influential activist and scholar during the black power movement. inspired by the void he percieved in cultural institutions african-americans could identify with, he decided to develop his own holiday; the result, kwanzaa. based on traditional harvest season celebrations, kwanzaa begins the day after christmas and lasts for a week ending on new years day. everyday a different principle is celebrated, and gifts are usually exchanged; the ziwadi are often homemade and should reflect the principle of the day. it is celebrated by the lighting of candles, one black, three green and three red (black for the skin of the people, green for the land, red for the blood), one each night, and community celebrations which include, but are not limited to: discussions about what the nguzu saba means, how we have practiced them in the past year and new ways to apply them in the year to come, food, libations/ancestor appreciation, the making and/or exchanging of ziwadi, songs, stories, and meditation. the principles are, in order:

- umoja (oo-mo-jah) = unity

- kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-ah) = self-determination

- ujima (oo-gee-mah) = collective work & responsibility

- ujamaa (oo-jah-ma-ah) = cooperative economics

- kuumba (koo-oom-bah) = creativity

- nia (nee-ah) = purpose

- imani (ee-mah-nee) = faith

so now that you know the basics, grab your dashiki, a bean pie, the white woman that every black revolutionary should have by their side, and enjoy
. ashe.

a forward from my father


Please don't start naming your daughters after the President... names such as Obamanesha, Obamalisha, Obamarette, Obamalaya, Obamaria, Barakala, Barakella, Barakesha, Baraykah, etc.  Adding La, Sha, Da, Ja or Rhi as a prefix is not allowed.  Don't start that mess! PLEASE!!
Also, you might be tempted to name your twins JaBarack or LaMichelle, but DON'T DO IT!!! And please don't misspell Michelle Obama's name.  No Meshell, Mayshell, Maeshell, Muhshell or any of that mess.

It is acceptable to name your sons Barack or even Obama, but that is as far as you may go.  



the essence of the triforce

i have done it. it is over. 15 years in the making and i have finally beaten the legend of zelda: a link to the past...on super nintendo. and with no outside help. well, that's not entirely true; i definitely utilized the internet in some sticky situations, but for the first time there was no one there i could hand the controller to when i got in over my head, my brother was not standing by with his years of built up wisdom for me to rely on for direction. it was just me, alone on my couch, covered in blanket, snotty tissue (i'm sick, hence all the extra time on the couch to accomplish said goal), and the waves of life affirming warmth from my heater. a part of me wishes someone had been there to bear witness to this great deed. though another part of me is happy it was done in solitude; i think only my brother who has sat beside me for countless hours of wandering through hyrule in search of potions to renew ones mystic energy, maidens trapped in crystals, and an ever evolving magical arsenal, could appreciate what this means to me.

i have wondered many times as i sat, eyes focused, thumbs sore from the frantic pushing of buttons, why do i love this game so much? why have i never given up?
i have never beaten the original super mario brothers and i must say, i really don't care. and i own it; at any time i could blow the dust out of the cartridge, probably incorporating the t-shirt blowjob (those who know super nintendo know what i'm talking about), shove it into that grumpy slot at just the right angle and pit myself against it {ha ha ha, i never knew video game playing was so suggestive, she said knowingly}. but i don't, i always pass it by for my much loved bronze and red label, go back into our complicated and turbulent history. and after having finally beat it, i get it, know why it has always intrigued me so: it is classic fantasy translated into a simple, yet somehow unerringly amusing, interactive format. i realize that since the game came out there have been sequels and prequels and hundreds of other far more elaborate and complicated games created, but for me, zelda captures the essence of all that is good about video games. perhaps this stubborn love of it's simplicity is why i never advanced beyond super nintendo in my gaming, but that's neither here nor there.

so now, officially, for any of those who didn't know, i am a geek. i love fantasy. that's right, i said it. i get caught up in the mystery of unknown worlds, the wordy descriptions of faces and places, appreciate the minute details of clothes and cultures, and have been moved to hunger by the descriptions of feasts full of mutton and treacle (i don't even know what this is, it just sounds delightful {wikipedia has just informed me that it's a sugarcane syrup similar to molasses, who knew}) and such, but most of all i love the possibility of it. i am enamored with the perspective it provides on the world i do know, for anything we create exists in the context of what we call reality, is defined by its accordance or opposition to it. not that i believe
zelda to be a great statement about the state of the world in 1992, but it stands as an amazingly fantastical creation, full of it's own creatures, topography and mysticism and offers me just as much in the way of "unrealistic" (in quotes because i believe as pete philly & perquisite do, that every bit of reality starts with a dream) possibility as any ursula k leguin story.

15 years in and there are still ridges and areas of forest i have never been to, and unfortunately because of designer imposed limitations, can never go to, mountain tops seen on the map that are always just off screen. and that's what keeps me going back, the knowledge that i will never truly conquer that land, it will always have secrets i am not privy to. i revisit
hyrule with the same cozy feeling as that of cracking open one of my favorite books for the millionth time (being a die-hard re-reader), and there's a good chance that book is fantastic (literally, not colloquially).

and on a totally unrelated note, while being sick i have spent more time than usual on the
internet and have therefore encountered some of its infinitely interesting offerings, which i will now share. enjoy.

stressed? follow the example of one brave iraqi reporter and hit bush in the face with a shoe

(thanks andy!)

everybody loves trannies!

and this is why i have very little faith in human kind as a whole

and on an even more unrelated note, as a follow up to my beautifully narcissistic post about what a peculiar human being i am, to know me is to also know that i have no standard sense of time; you're lucky if i know what day it is, exceptionally lucky if i can also tell you the date. i made it a point to call a friend of mine on the east coast at precisely 9 o'clock pacific time so as to catch her at the moment it became her birthday; only to be greeted by
uncontrollable laughter, which only stopped long enough for her to tell me it wasn't her birthday. oh well, it's the thought that counts.


to know me is to know that aliens walk among us

i wish i could explain why, but for quite some time now i have known that i am...other. i am one of those characters people seem to have a hard time finding a box for, particularly a box with a neatly printed label. to steal the words of a friend's little brother, "i'm not a square, i'm a rhombus; a quadrilateral with a lean." perhaps it's the fact that i'm a habitual line stepper, never content with the side of the line i happen to find myself on. or maybe that i tend to prefer the world in my head to the world that others inhabit.

and though i have known this for what seems like forever, i still sometimes forget; until something comes out of my mouth that elicits that oh so familiar look of, really? and it's not always a bad thing, it just is what it is. but it reminds me that i am not like everybody else. i am not good at chatting, even worse at hiding irritation, can be so un-pc i've feared my bay area quasi-hippie card might get revoked, and am simply looking out of a very different window than the rest of the world. to be honest that's something of an over-statement because i have indeed found like souls. on the train, in the subway, behind the counter of our local middle eastern/ethiopian bodega, but we are so few and far between i sometimes feel myself to be a member of one of the lost tribes of israel, with just as much controversy. just the other day as i was walking to the bodega i encountered a man with a limp and an out of country accent who simply would not believe that i was indeed from oakland, or even from these supposedly united states. for a solid 5 minutes we went back and forth over the place of my birth and where my people came from (perhaps the fact that i even stood there and had the conversation is why people love to give me that look) and this is not a lone incident. it has happened everywhere from buying feta at an egyptian cafe in downtown oakland to a taxi in atlanta, a crowded bar in spain to a fruit stand in chile, it doesn't seem to matter where i am, people just know (or believe) that i am not from here, wherever here may be.
there are two stories that i believe describe it best. the first is a short one, about a comment delivered during a phone conversation in denver. i happened to be there during the DNC and after wandering through downtown in search of food, had chanced upon the headquarters of the uber-left delegates; i was suddenly surrounded by white people with dreadlocks, naked babies, and even an impromptu vegan cook out. now among my people, i settled into a patch of grass and called a friend who was or was not going to make it to denver to share in this glory. as it turned out, she wouldn't make it, but she said something to me then that rang true like the liberty bell (pre-crack of course {or maybe post crack since we are still talking about me}), "you know, you and and the universe are real tight."

and she's right. i have a way of finding myself in places that i am obviously meant to be. on the last day of a cruise, with this same friend, coincidentally or not, i found myself in a pickle. we had made plans to meet up with the friends we had made over the past week of chain smoking, dancing, and drinking till sunrise nightly, but when they called to let me know where to meet i was out. they left a message saying they were in lance's room, a totally moot statement considering i didn't know where this was. so i wandered around the boat, up and down corridors, through the many cafeterias and lounges, past innumerable doors looking for them, but no luck. i passed one particular door and stopped. it was slightly ajar and there was no sound coming from inside. i hesitated, the well trained side of my brain telling me that you do not simply walk into an unknown room because the door is open. i stood a while bouncing the idea around in my mind. i let my rational side win, and went back to my room to see if they had called again. they hadn't. i went back to that door, couldn't shake the feeling that there was something for me in there. it was still ajar and i pushed the door open calling into the interior. i got no answer and the room was empty. i proceeded inside until i got to the curtain hanging in front of the balcony doors, pushed it aside, and there they were, lounging and enjoying the last of our dominican greenery. they all looked like they had seen a ghost, no one knew that the door was open and they had given up hope that they would find me. it is moments like these that make people wonder.
a friend in high school once coined a phrase during a conversation on this very topic (one which in hindsight comes up fairly frequently), just how weird it is to know me: the jihansperience; because (his words, not mine) "knowing you is like an all encompassing, and incredibly singular, experience. you are just not like everybody else." almost a decade later and i'm still a little fuzzy on what he means. it's the same fuzziness i feel about the matrix: reloaded, while watching it i get it, understand everything the architect is saying. as soon as the movie is over, i mentally review it and have no idea what he was talking about.
there is definitely something that is known as jihan-ness, though. a type of humor, perspective, jackassery, insanity and coincidence (or not ?) that is just mine. and not that many other people don't posses such qualities, everybody does, but the fact seems irrelevant since i am not these people. it is incredible to me that every thing in this universe that has ever existed or will exist has an infinitely singular connection to it. i call it the salvia effect, a statement i may or may not explain later: the undeniable fact that we exist makes us just like everything else. by inference, this means that i am not different; i poop and eat and and sleep and do my best to avoid premature death just like every other living thing, and yet, at the same time, i am not like them, and it is recognizable. this tension between two truths, what is unique and what is shared, is what drives most of the confusion in the universe, trying to figure out where we end and everything else begins (ha ha ha, and here i thought my quasi-hippie card might be revoked, silly me).
the search for big one is the search for myself. it's one of my oldest nicknames stemming from the great height difference between me and one of my bestest friends. at a certain level it is totally absurd to be on a search for myself for as buckaroo banzai advised me, "wherever you go, there you are." but there continue to be known unknowns and unknown unknowns, things right in front of me, things right inside of me, that i can't see. so i go searching to gain perspective. often i get grumpy on my quest, tired of having to explain myself to others, weary of climbing out of the boxes i am stuffed into, but that is life. a like soul once wrote words that inspire me to keep it moving. these are the words of pierre teilhard de chardin, a renegade jesuit priest at the turn of the 20th century. please ignore the jesus overtones.

Patient Trust
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually - let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time,
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
ashe {ah.shay} ( a swahili saying meaning let it be).



i'm not exactly sure how to describe my voice
in a literal sense it is just vibrating air pushed out by my vocal chords,
but it is also an audible representation of myself
over the phone it is the first thing people know about me
so instead of judging me by what i look like
they judge me by what i sound like

in some ways i think it's like my connection to life
i'm aware that is clear as mud
but i don't really know how to describe it

everything created has a natural resonance
a wavelength inherent to its being
that matches a specific sound
and when those two vibrations meet
they intensify upon one another until they explode

i guess what i'm trying to say is
my voice is my natural vibration with life
or creation
or what have you