Sunday, June 29, 2008

Finally...Movie Gold

I have a love/hate relationship with netflix. I put all these movies on my list... movies that I want to see. Really, I do. But then they get here and they are generally downers. I am taking responsibility for the selection; I'm just saying.

So, the movies get here. I refresh my memory on the movie and then it sits on my tv until I feel guilty about paying for movies that I don't watch.

Lately, I have been trying to choose movies that won't make me want to slit my wrists. But this is very complicated for me because I am not sure which those movies are.

I look through the comedies and almost throw up imagining myself watching most of them.

You see, I am not amused by the same things that most movie goers find funny. And some of the situations that others find fall on the floor funny only inspire a gag reflex in me.

Perhaps you can begin to understand my difficulty.

I was watching some other movie, which I can no longer remember, and there was a trailer for a movie about a lady who really loved her dog. It seemed sweet and quirky and, well, promising. Well, it turned out to just be WEIRD. Let's just say that she becomes a nearly terroristic animal rights activist as the result of the plot twists and turns. Not sweet. Not quirky. Not light in any sense of the word.

I had read some reviews and heard some good rumbling that I vaguely remember about Waitress. I had a good enough impression that I added it to my netflix queue a while ago, but it was way down there in the 40's and seemed like I would never get there.

I did some rearranging of my list and put anything that said comedy near the top... sprinkled with some dramas with hunky actors like Benjamin Bratt. But when the movie arrived this week, I worried that it would be weird, too.

Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. I have to say that Waitress has got to be my favorite movie ever, at least for now. How can you tell, you may ask yourself. Well, I watched every last extra and contemplated starting it all over again!

Of course, then I started to write this piece before I had seen all the extras and then found out about Adrienne Shelly's death (the writer/director/actor of the movie). It didn't make me like the movie more or less, although it did make me want to cry. I cannot imagine the void for her husband and child. Selfishly I grieved the fabulous movies this woman had left to make and gift to us. What a terrible waste of insightful talent. I am grateful to Ms. Shelly's husband for starting the Adrienne Shelly Foundation to give other talented women the chance to make great movies. I wish I had a million bucks to give to the foundation! Maybe, someday.

I had already decided to end the post with Andy Griffith's character's admonition. But reading about Adrienne Shelly reminded me why I got divorced... and is reminding me to live every day as though it were my last and best day. If you need a reminder why we should treasure life, just watch this movie. I would tell you why I really love this movie, but I don't want to give away anything if you haven't seen it. Thanks, Adrienne... you rock.

This life will kill ya. Make the right choice. Start fresh. It's never too late. Start fresh.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rolling Around My Head (and Heart)

I had to pull it out and read it because the words have been rolling around in my head (maybe my heart)... I could be walking down the street and for seemingly no reason, I would hear these words:

And let the best be for your friend
If he must know the ebb of your tide,
Let him know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you
should seek him with hours to kill?

Seek him always with hours to live.

And in the sweetness of friendship
Let there be laughter and sharing of pleasure.

For in the dew of little things
The heart finds its mornings and is refreshed.
--Kahlil Gibran

Maybe it is because lately I have spent so much time thinking about friendship and the way people relate to each other.

Not sure... but since my heart has been singing these words, and I am letting them out.

The universe will decide what it means.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why is it wrong for women (especially Black) to be angry??

Michele Martin breaks it down... as usual.

Thanks, Michele... as someone who is frequently accused of being angry when I am just being passionate or emphatic, I appreciate you challenging the concept.

Michele rightly asks why it's ok for white men to be angry? Also, being angry doesn't seem to limit white men's access to power. It seems more likely that "angry" is the epithet you throw at women when you worry that they are too powerful or that they might actually get some power (and wield it).

Ultimately, though, Michele wonders why we all aren't angry. {see my new favorite song for more about this.}

By the way, if you can't handle me passionate and/or emphatic, then you don't want to make me angry.

bring in the heavy equipment...

to dig out these posts.

I thought I had more to say on each of these, but it turns out I was just not ready to concede.

Our incarcerated nation...with a headline like that, who can not comment?!

The safety of women (and children for that matter)...and what our justice system doesn't do about it.

I know, all lovely and light topics... what can I say, this was all before I started to look for HAPPY things in the newspaper!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


My mother is not a dog person. I almost wrote not a pet person, but I have to say that she enjoys her birds (even though they annoy the hell out of everyone else) and her turtle (before my father decided that Bright Eyes needed a new home).

Growing up, we were always allowed to have some sort of pet, but my mother always seemed to be barely tolerating them. My father, on the other hand, always developed some deep relationship with our dogs and birds and, well maybe not, the snakes etc. My dad was the one, however, who always protested that he did not want another pet, especially not another dog. His argument was that they always ended up as his responsibility, and as such, he ought to have the right to veto getting another one. That would make you think that he didn't like having pets... but now, looking back, I think it is just that he didn't like to get attached to them.

Animals love me. I think I get the not being a dog person from my mother. I dislike pets that need to be NEXT to you all the time or that want to jump in your lap or, ick, lick your face. But, animals love me. I can walk into a stranger's house, and if there is a dog or a cat, it will be sidling up next to me trying to get my attention. My sisters are extreme dog lovers. I mean extreme. In a way that makes me cringe... I swear they love their animals more than people. One of my brothers prefers cats to dogs, but basically they are all animal lovers.

I am considered the anti-animal lover... but it's not true. I adored my bird Aloysius ... and we had an understanding. He stayed in his cage unless there was some need for him to be out and about. We didn't need to be constantly together in order to love each other. I thoroughly enjoy my turtle. And we have a real connection despite all the people who don't understand that a turtle can connect with a human ... read: they only get dog/cat to people relationships. Somehow there is some secret line that non-dogs and non-cats cannot cross in those people's worlds... well, they just don't get it, but that's a topic for another post.

In any case, animals love me, always want to talk to me, and well, I would rather that they do it from a distance. I think dogs should live outside where they can be, well, ANIMALS rather than turned into appendages. Those are my personal feelings on the subject, so whatever. And, I always thought that this was a point on which my mother and I could agree. Being that there are so FEW things upon which we agree, I was pleased to imagine that it was so.

Then my younger sister got Lola and left her at the house for my mother and father to take care of like some grandchild. Lola is a rather small dog, so small and un-dog like that you might confuse her for a miniature deer or large rat. She is a miniature pinscher/chihuahua mix. Visualize it. I don't have a photo handy. Lola is needy and whinny and just generally a brat. Oh, and she loves me... she will stand at my feet and cry...hoping that I will give her one ounce of attention despite the fact that I have explained to her MANY times that I don't want her to sit on my foot or my lap or next to me, or anything. Not in a box, not with a fox, not on a train, you get the picture.

Well, my mother LOVES Lola. It's not surprising that my father loves Lola...he's a pushover. But, I NEVER thought I would live to see the day that my mother would LOVE LOVE LOVE a dog. She loves Lola so much (and misses her now that she's moved far away) that she got a dog. Now, granted it has taken two years and someone else to shell out the dollars for the dog, but now she has her own little not-dog dog.

LUCY. I haven't seen her, but I will provide the descriptions I have been given, and you can attempt to visualize. My father states that she is "cute and woolly." My mother says that she doesn't really look like a chihuahua. She has green eyes and red hair, hence the name, though there was apparently controversy in the naming (perhaps better left for another post). When pressed on what does she look like, my mother says, "She's Heinz 57." Huh?! My mother explained: "she's a little of this and a little of that, well a lot of things." As far as she knows, part miniature pinscher and chihuahua (like Lola) but also miniature dachshund and maybe more, who knows. I had no idea what she was talking about with the Heinz 57, though I mentioned it to my friend, Mary, and Mary says, "oh, she's a mutt."

Well, as if the fact that my mother now owns a lap dog wasn't enough to shake what little foundation I thought I had with my parents, my mother also announced that my father was out making a house for the stray cat and the kittens she gave birth to in the backyard. What's even more confusing is that my mother referred to them as "his cats." -- ALL OF THEM?!

Ok, so the guy who never wants to have pets again has decided to adopt five flea riddled cats? Um, what have you done with my father?? He doesn't like pets because he doesn't like to get attached and now he's attached to cats that are strays and just as likely to wander off as they are to stay and get fleas everywhere??

Yeah, I was puzzling about it for awhile and then I decided that my dad needed to keep things balanced. So, if my mother was going to have a lap dog, then he was going to claim the cats. It is the only notion that is keeping me sane at the moment. Not sure if it's true, though.

Oh... and boy is Lola going to be angry when she comes to visit and is forced to meet and interact with Lucy. Roll the cameras for that one!

Monday, June 16, 2008


While reading this interesting story about Michelle Obama and her experience at Princeton, I was particularly struck by this piece:

Since graduating, Obama has not returned to the Princeton campus. But after leaving the college behind, she found a way to resolve her dilemma while remaining true to herself. [my emphasis, of course]

And the clueless question asked of me by another Latina who attended an ivy a few years after me: "You didn't have fun at Princeton?" You will have to imagine the incredulity in the voice. I won't further characterize the voice because I need to follow Thumper's father's advice.

But, I can tell you how I felt.

I wish that Princeton had been more inviting socially. I wish that I could have walked through the experience feeling welcomed, integrated and accepted. I was card-carrying involved. I didn't hide in the shadows or dive inside a book and re-emerge at graduation.

But, I never felt welcomed or accepted.

This despite the fact that I was on a first name basis with much of the university administration. I was not left out despite the institution's tradition of locking out anyone who did not make an effort to fit in. I won't cop to that. Either I didn't know how to fit in or just didn't care to.

I understand that personal situations colored those first days. It was a whirlwind of being 3000 miles from home (yes, by choice), in a state I didn't know anything about (blissful ignorance or just the way Californians deal with the fact that it's a big country out there), in a climate (weather-wise) that I had never really experienced. It was a difficult transition. You could call my mental state out of sorts on all those levels, not even taking into account that my mother hadn't spoken to me for a week before I left, or that my parents chose not to even accompany me to the airport let alone drop me off at college. [My mother still swears that she was not speaking to me for some other reason than that I was going cross country to go to college and she didn't approve, though we may never know what that "other reason" could be.]

Who knows how I might have fared if on my first day being on campus (literally before the first 24 hours had transpire) the skinhead in my r.a. group hadn't demanded (I know the difference between friendly inquisitiveness and the inquisition) to know my SAT scores.

If only he knew exactly how I got into Princeton... he might have staged a sit-in of his own for the new president.

Instead, he watched (and listened) carefully for the moment I might display my less-worthy-status, ready to pounce. He never got that chance. I am not sure if it is because my guard never came down around him or if I just exude intellectualism. I seem to recall sometime that first week he felt the need to reassure me that I had passed the test because I had used a vocabulary word he had obviously memorized in a way that seemed more obscure and therefore more erudite than he had ever heard someone use it.

I am sure it says more about the people he had heard speaking before me than it does about my use of my wide-ranging vocabulary (I do like to USE 10 cent words). {wink} Either way, that little dance routine did not inspire me to get up close and personal with any white folks on campus.

All I can say is that for me, that early challenge colored my experience. It created a wariness in me that hadn't occurred to me at all before I got on the plane. It certainly did not make me want to bend over backwards to FIT IN somewhere I was clearly not expected to be.

I have returned to Princeton. Not as a flag waving, nazi-youth-sign-making, orange and black wearing way. Making it through meant that I would forever be a part of Princeton not just that Princeton would forever be a part of me. I knew, even as a student, that as an alumna I would have more power than any student could ever have.

Living just around the corner (in Trenton, that is) from PU for 10 years following graduation gave me the opportunity to try to develop a better relationship with the university community as an alumna than I had as a student. I have spent more time in Firestone as an alumna than I ever did as a student using its resources to prepare for courses I taught, to research any and everything and to escape the heat in the summer! I have had the opportunity to take in more of the fascinating lectures than I could ever fit into my too-busy, too-involved student's schedule.

Now, 3000 miles away from Princeton, I participate in the Princeton Prize in Race Relations committee, having found, as Michelle might say, something about which I could finally be proud at Princeton. I am now secretly (only a secret in that I haven't done anything about it yet) plotting to help start an endowment for the Third World Center (which, yes, I will continue to call that til I die not because I have anything against Carl Fields) with endowed chairs for Latino and African American studies program(s)/departments -- hey dreams can only come true if you actually have them and then act on them!

I did go to reunions, once, for my tenth. I couldn't bring myself to attend any of the events without stopping for at least one cocktail -- probably the most traditional Princeton ritual I have ever embraced (the drinking that is). Though not nearly as painful as I thought it would be, I don't have an overwhelming desire to go to reunions again before my 20th.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Powered By Truth

So, apparently the Barack Obama campaign has decided to fight the mud slinging with a truth. They are putting the flashlight/spotlight on the lies by pointing out the inconsistencies and providing the truth ... on the internet (of all places, you know what tenuous relationship we have here with the truth!).

You can go there and read through the ridiculous claims if you are so inclined. Though, I am not sure the people who enjoy wallowing in mud have any interest in actually finding out whether or not something is true. In fact, since they are willing to swallow whole any email chain that has been forwarded as TRUTH without taking a moment to check the facts -- and, incidentally, to send it to their 708 closest friends via another forward -- it is just not clear that they will bother to check this site.

Still, you are encouraged to create your own viral campaign by forwarding it on to your closest email buddies (I did not send out an email -- rather I posted it to my facebook profile. Hopefully others will also post it to their profiles, and in that way, the word will spread without having to actually fill people's email boxes, but you know, whatever works).

Additionally, the campaign has created an email address (I love what they named it: where you can send in any smears and slurs that they might not have heard yet. I would certainly hate to be the one that has the job to check that email inbox.

Finally, they are hoping to catch some new donors who are outraged to see that this is the way we run our political campaigns. So much for's all about the ratings, baby.

I am hoping I don't lose my job so that I can donate some dollars to Barack before the election. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Sometimes starting is the hardest thing. Just putting one foot in front of the other, or pen to paper. I sit at my desk sometimes with the idea to do two or three things but in the thinking of which to do first, nothing happens.

How do you fight inertia? It is certainly more powerful than my best intentions lately.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

got girl effect?

You should get some if you don't. Thanks to Jen Lemen and her fantastic stories from her recent trip to Rwanda.

If only we all could see ourselves doing something, big or small, to change the course of history -- for the better.

If only we could all feel our power.

And use it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

the stars in the sky

The skies will be twinkling with a new star from now on. My friend Renea's gram passed away on Thursday.

She will bring a unique sparkle to the night sky. She was a remarkable woman: strong, proud, powerful, loving, accepting, nurturing and enduring.

I remember the pan of bread pudding she made especially for me. Oh... and the shortening bread she made when I expressed an interest. Queen of her castle and graceful hostess ... at the same time welcoming me as though I might be another granddaughter.

I could not understand the exquisite pain she must have felt to lose the physical trappings of her life in Katrina. When I saw her in Virginia, she retained her regal look and her strength, but some of her power was diminished. She seemed a little smaller, but she continued to issue sparks. Then again when I saw her in New York, her discomfort was visible. I longed for the chance to see her once more in New Orleans even if it could not be in her home.

Now I will visit her in my dreams and see her in the brightest nighttime star.

I am glad she will no longer have pain; I am sure her husband is waiting for her on the other side. I am sorry for the world. Without the kind of power and grace she gave us, our world will be smaller, crueler and less beautiful. May she rest in peace.