Music

Nobody

Let me preface this by saying I’m not really a fan of Rick Ross. Or French Montana. However, I am a fan of Sean Combs, for no other reason than he told us that he won’t stop, and he hasn’t. I first heard this song last week on my way home from the gym. I was not particularly enthralled by the song itself– I tend to dislike remakes– but I did enjoy Diddy’s monologue, which is interspersed throughout the song. Ross won’t divulge to whom this rant of sorts was addressed, which just adds to my amusement.  Despite Diddy’s liberal use of the N-word, I think he’s got a pretty interesting message (I’m also ignoring the fact that he was likely referring to himself as God…).

[Don't watch the video if you are offended by profanity.]

 

My favorite part:

You don’t wanna embrace your destiny
You wanna get by
You don’t wanna go into the [expletive] dark
Where it’s lonely
You can’t handle the [expletive] the pain

 

 

 

 

Also, I was chatting with a co-worker today and we realized that Biggie was killed seventeen–SEVENTEEN– years ago. Time really flies.

 

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Career, Personal

The Leap

From an interview with Elle Luna featured on The Great Discontent .

I think that once you quit the job that’s paying the bills, the entire universe comes out to meet you. But it’s only after you quit your job that those people arrive, and that’s the secret that nobody knows. When you’ve made the leap and you’re far from shore, nothing is guaranteed, but we do it together and that’s what makes it worth it.

Read the rest here. There’s a very interesting bit about her applying to nine law schools and getting rejected by all of them. Then she applied to two art schools. When she was accepted to both, she took that as a sign. (Kinda reminds me of my seven failed bar attempts.)

On the beach in Montezuma, I met a guy from Kentucky. I don’t even know how work came up. He was ex-military, had his house in Lexington on the market, and was just hanging out in Costa Rica until it sold. He said that he  and his friend were moving to Los Angeles to work as screenwriters. I told him what I do. And he said, “You should quit your job.” My friend said, “I keep telling her. She won’t listen.”

If only it were that simple. But I can’t shake the idea that I am not the kind of person for whom a safety net will magically appear. That I will leap and land head-first on the concrete below.

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travel

Costa Rica

Image

Gallo pinto and eggs and the sweetest pineapple you’ll ever taste for breakfast. White-water rafting on Rio Sarapiqui. Mountain biking around Volcan Arenal. Vinyasa yoga in an open-air pavilion overlooking the Pacific, the sounds of the ocean and birds and white-faced capuchins and air moist with promise surrounding you in savasana. Snorkeling in the shimmering green waters of Isla Tortuga. Mornings in the hammock, Centenario and Coke at night. Even the rum tastes better there.

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Personal, travel, Writing

Now

I am listening to this freezing rain as it falls. Chunks of snow are crashing from the roof. The squirrels in the crawl space above my head are playing soccer. The radiator hisses.  The new mayor says he went to the gym before he shoveled the heavy, wet snow from the sidewalk in front of his Park Slope home; he advises City residents not to do this. His Spanish is better than the old mayor’s, but not much. I am wondering whether I will hold my community class tonight. It doesn’t look very bad from my window, and there are cars whizzing past the house every few minutes. I can hear the tires slice through the water and connect to the asphalt below.  I have just finished reading “The Girl Who Flew,” by Camellia Phillips. I told myself I should read more literary journals, so I subscribed to Calyx. I’ll treat myself to Callaloo when I come back from Costa Rica. Maybe I should read The House on Mango Street again.  I bought it on Friday and read it on Saturday; it’s the first assignment on the syllabus of the experimental fiction class I’m taking at The New School, taught by Sharon Mesmer. Last week was our first session. She asked what I was reading, so I told her. I told her that I sleep with books in my bed. How I can’t stop thinking about words. She told me that just means I’m a writer. I have to pack, but I don’t want to stop reading. Maybe I will just pack my books for now. I bought a bright orange backpack for this trip; it matches my cashmere travel scarf. I am going to fill it with books and snacks. And panties, just in case our luggage gets lost. I am still listening to this freezing rain as it falls. It sounds like sweet music. It sounds like a promise. It sounds like now.

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Career, Personal

The Script

When I first started this job, I kept my script at my desk, hidden beneath my notepad, and I would read from it as discreetly as possible.

Nearly six years later, the script flows out of my mouth before I can even think about it. Sometimes I rattle it off so quickly, while my mind is elsewhere, that when I come to the end of my speech I forget where I am, what else I’m supposed to be saying. I grapple for the right words to explain to people who don’t really want to hear what I have to say the reasons why they are ineligible for a benefit to which they feel entitled.

I can read the script with my eyes closed. I can recite it in my sleep. Sometimes I think that I’ll still remember it a decade from now, when, God-willing, I’m doing something totally unrelated to this, and that I’ll turn to whoever is around and give my brief speech, introducing myself and explaining the clients’ rights. And when I finish, my partner, my kid, my student, whoever has heard this nonsense will look at me, confused, and ask, “What are you TALKING about?” And I’ll laugh because I don’t have the words to share my experiences here.

When my alarm went off this morning, I cried. I actually woke up at 2:30 am, after a nightmare about having a huge argument with a client outside of the building, and when I glanced at my phone I realized I had five hours of sleep left. But I didn’t, couldn’t, fall back to sleep so I just laid there, listening to the infomercials on TV. I was awake when my alarm finally rang, and the first words out of my mouth were: I don’t want to go.

I’m sick of the fucking script.

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Books, Personal

On Books

I sleep with books in my bed, at least ten of them. During law school, I picked up the bad habit of reading three or four books at a time. I would read fifty pages of one, seventy pages of another, then flit back and forth in between until I finished them all.  And I’d start all over with a new set of books, never paying close attention, sometimes setting aside a book and forgetting about it, coming back to it months later. Because I was always reading a bunch of books, I kept them as close to me as possible– in my bed, so when I grew tired of one, my next option was within reach. I spent a lot of time in law school reading books that had absolutely nothing to do with the law. I broke myself of the multiple-book habit during the last six months of 2013; I began reading one book a week in June.  But I still like to have my books near to me. I like to have choices.

So I have these ten books in my bed. And two stacks of books on the floor next to my bed; those are the books I’m planning to read next. I have a heavy wooden chest at the foot of my bed. When I was a child, it was full of toys. Now it is stuffed with books. But I can’t get to them easily because there are two boxes of books on top of the chest. There is no more room on my shelves.  I have four more boxes of books in the basement. There  are books everywhere.

Still, I buy more.  I blame my father for this habit.  When I was in third grade, he bought me one book every weekend for the  entire year. My teacher, Mrs. Zullo, had gifted me a few of her vintage Nancy Drew books (I still have them) and when I devoured those and asked for more, he took me to B. Dalton Bookseller and bought me a few of the updated versions. We fell into a pattern; he’d pick us up from school on Fridays, and take us to the mall. I’d get a new book. My sister would get a small toy. He would treat us to McDonald’s and I’d open up my new book and eat my cheeseburger (with extra pickles!) without even looking at it.  Eventually, my mother realized how much money my father was spending on books for me, and she encouraged him to take me to the library instead. But it was too late; the damage was already done. I still prefer my books untouched by others. I like them fresh and new, no dog-eared pages or stains or cracked spines.  I keep my books because, if I like them, I’ll always read them again. My copy of Waiting in Vain is yellow and worn and I’ve read it every year for the last twelve years.

I’ll buy dozens of books at a time. Last year, I bought three of Danzy Senna’s books (You Are Free, Symptomatic, and Where Did You Sleep Last Night?) in one night. I have everything written by Junot Diaz, Chris Abani, M. Evelina Galang (all VONA instructors), as well as Colin Channer, Elizabeth Nunez, and Oonya Kempeadoo. I went through a phase where I read only the fiction of Caribbean writers, so I’ve got a large collection of that as well. I am surrounded by books.

I’ve been sorting through them, searching for collections of short stories. That’s what I feel like reading. Short stories fascinate me. They are so very brief, and illuminating. And when they’re good, they stay with you. I want something that stays with me.

I’m currently reading Her Wild American Self, Evelina’s debut story collection. The first time I read it was on the five hour plane ride from SFO to JFK after VONA in 2010. I cried the whole way, partially because of Evelina’s writing, which is gorgeous, but also because I didn’t want to return to my life as it was.

Sometimes I think that loving books the way I do doesn’t mean I need to write them. When I was at VONA, I believed that I could write them. Nearly four years later, with barely any new fiction under my belt, maybe I can’t? Maybe my love is just for the experience of reading. Maybe I don’t have to create.

Usually, when I start to feel like this I remind myself of an e-mail that I received, nearly a year ago:

You are too beautiful a writer not to share it with other people. 

(thank you, my soul sister. you inspire me more than you know.)

I started a new project. I’m having a hard time with it. I have four books in my cart on Amazon. I think I’m trying to distract myself. If I cloak myself in the words of others, I have no room for my own.

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Personal

Bah. Humbug.

I’ve worked every Christmas Day since 2008.

Because Christmas is just a regular work day for me, it’s hard getting into the “spirit” of things.

Last night, I drove my mom to church and she spent the seven minute ride reminiscing about Christmases past:

Allyuh would be so excited. You would stay up so late waiting for Santa. We hid the presents at your grandmother’s and your father had to drive to the Bronx to pick them up at four o’clock in the morning after you went to sleep. And you would gasp when you saw all those presents under the tree. Christmas used to be so much fun. Those were the days.

Christmas now means lots and lots of cleaning. Changing the curtains, beating the rugs outside in the cold. Preparing the sorrel and ginger beer and ponche a creme. Many [failed] attempts at baking my Grams’ bread. My sister and I tell each other what we want and agonize over what to get our mother. This year she dropped the hint that she wanted a new sound system to replace the radio/double tape deck/3 disc player she’s had since I was in high school. The problem is, she wants the same exact thing, and where does one find a double tape deck these days? My sister suggested getting her a bluetooth speaker since Marvs has an iPhone now. I knew that wouldn’t work because she does NOT know how to use her iPhone other than to make phone calls and to send the occasional text, and that was all she had the energy to learn. What do you get a person like this?  A gift certificate for spa services. Nice and simple. We help her decorate the tree and season the turkey breast, slice up the ham my uncle sends from Texas every year, wash and dry all of the china and replace it neatly in her breakfront. It’s not Christmas until the entire house is spotless.

And of course, I get up and go to work.  By the time I get home, the presents have been opened, dinner is done, and the leftovers are already packed away–Marvs likes to invite a Nigerian family visiting her church to dinner. She also likes to eat early. So I make myself a plate and eat in my room alone until my sister wakes up (after being on call) or comes home from visiting her boyfriend’s family.

Christmas just isn’t so magical anymore.

Anyway. I hope all five of you who read this enjoy your day. Save me a slice a pie or something.

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love, Personal

The Moment

We were in his car, a brand new Mercedes Benz SUV. He changed lanes, and someone honked wildly at us.  He seemed bewildered; he didn’t know why this person was so angry. I said, “You cut him off.” He said, “Oops.” He hadn’t looked. And in that moment, I saw my future.

I saw more Saturdays like this. Brunch dates and hand-holding and awkward kisses and clumsy sex that was never rough in the right way. Me, realizing that he refused to acknowledge when he was wrong. Me, planning our every outing because he never seemed to notice what I liked to do. Him, inviting me to Sunday dinners at his mother’s house. Me, driving us everywhere because I didn’t trust him not to get us killed. Him, telling our mutual friends that I was his perfect girl. A  year, then two, of this routine. A diamond ring, pretty, but nothing like the kind of ring I’d ever wear. Me, saying yes, because he was a good guy. A lavish wedding, because he could afford it. And me, frustrated and bored, finding my way back to my old friend. An affair, brief and painful and illuminating. Me, realizing I’d been lying to myself. Me, hurting him when I walked away.

I saw this all play out like a movie montage, scene after scene, quick flashes of what my life would be like if I didn’t end this now. I looked down at the angry driver, then over at him, as he fiddled with his side mirrors. My stomach dropped.  When we finally reached our destination, he helped me out of the car and grasped at my hand. I let it slip past his outstretched fingers.

“We have to go,” I said. “We’re going to be late.”

#thisiswhyimsingle

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Fitness, Goals, Personal, Yoga

Getting it Together

One day near the end of August I woke up with my knee throbbing.

I decided to stay home and rest. I grabbed some ice and propped my knee up and watched terrible daytime television and cried.

By 2 pm, I was bored. So I got up and drove myself to Crocheron Park, where I sat by the pond and finished reading Daring Greatly.

Then I walked over to the Bayside Marina and kept walking. And walking. Until I stood underneath the approach to the Throgs Neck Bridge. Then I turned around and walked back.

My knee still hurt. But not as much as it had when I first woke up. And I realized: I had tried to protect myself from the knee pain by being as sedentary as possible. What I’d done, instead, was pack on an extra five pounds, which my knee definitely couldn’t take. I know five pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but I am just over five feet tall, and, at the time, weighed more than I had ever weighed before– over 147 pounds.

In the eight weeks since I took that walk along Little Neck Bay, I’ve shed 11.4 pounds. I resolved to move my body in some way, at least six days a week. I began tracking my food intake with an application on my iPhone (Lose It!), and I dug up the Polar Heart Rate Monitor my sister gave me last Christmas to track my calories burned with every work out. And so I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine. Mondays and Wednesdays, I work out at home. I do one of my Jillian Michaels DVDs (usually No More Trouble Zones because it is ROUGH), then follow up with an hour of incline walking on the treadmill I bought three years ago (which has only been used sporadically up until now). Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do cardio at the gym  (typically a StairMaster/elliptical combo since I have the treadmill at home. I do at least 30 minutes, but usually closer to an hour), then go to my regular 90-minute Hot Vinyasa Flow class. Fridays, I go to the gym for my favorite, leg day. Saturday is whatever I feel like doing– most of the time I’ll walk around my neighborhood, or do my Butt Bible dvd plus a yoga class.  This is the most consistent I’ve been about working out since I was still in law school, and routinely shirked my study duties by spending hours at the gym. My consistency has paid off.

My knee feels so much better now. Without the extra weight, there’s less pressure on the joint. And all the strength-building I’ve been doing has helped stabilize my patella so it doesn’t slide all over the place and get compressed when I bend the knee.  I spent 30 minutes on the StairMaster yesterday and my knee feels totally normal. So it occurred to me– why can’t I run?

I want to run again. I miss it terribly.  I never thought I’d miss it, but I do. As always, I don’t want to hurt myself again. So I will wait until I am under 130 pounds, and then I will start the Couch to 5k program. When I weighed myself yesterday, I was 135.8. My 31st birthday is in three weeks. My goal is to do the first day of the program the weekend after my birthday. It’s time.

And now I’m off to the gym!

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Personal

Daddy Issues

me and my daddy in St. Thomas USVI, some time in the early 90s.

me and my daddy in St. Thomas USVI, some time in the early 90s.

My mother’s father died of renal failure four years before I was born. When he died, he was living in Brooklyn with his Trinidadian-Chinese wife and their four children. My mother, one of three children he’d had with my Grams prior to his marriage, was in graduate school at Fordham University at the time. She was easily accessible. His wife didn’t tell her that he’d died until nearly a month after his funeral.

I am afraid of history repeating itself.  I am afraid of being shut out of my father’s life because his wife, for some inexplicable reason, does not like my sister and me.

My relationship with my father was rocky, at best, for several years.  He left my mother when I was thirteen; they weren’t divorced until I was twenty-one.  When he left, I was old enough to understand what was going on, and I despised him for it.  But eventually, I had to let that hurt go. I couldn’t function with that burden. So I forgave my father. I love him dearly.

I think, what might have happened is, when my father and his wife met some nine years ago, she didn’t expect that my sister and I would be around.  And honestly, at twenty-two, I didn’t think I’d have much to do with him, either. I believe this sudden turn around– I speak to him at least once a week, we hang out and drink and talk shit, he brings me soca cds from Trinidad after Carnival every year– is unsettling for her.

At the hospital yesterday, after he’d been prepped for surgery, the chaplain came to talk to him. She asked him, “Is this your wife?” He said yes. She didn’t ask who my sister and I were, because it was clear. We are his daughters. I have his forehead, his eyes, his chin. My sister has his cheekbones and his full lips. We both share his dark mahogany complexion. We are his daughters, Barrow women. We earned that name by blood.   We are proof that he was married before her. We are proof that he loved before her, had a whole different life before her. We are undeniably his. And his wife hates us for it.

I am sensitive to people’s energies. And I knew the moment I laid eyes on that woman that she would be trouble. When we first met, my poor father, who was so afraid of upsetting me, didn’t even want to tell me that she was his wife. But he introduced us, and I am not rude or nasty (unless provoked), so I was pleasant enough. I told myself I wouldn’t judge her just because she happened to be my father’s second wife. But she wouldn’t make eye contact with me. And she never spoke to me directly, instead addressing her questions to my father for him to pass along. I thought that was strange, but brushed it off as her being nervous. The next time I saw her, I said hello to her, and she said nothing. Her daughter similarly ignored me.  This continued over the years, so I tried my best to avoid her whenever possible, and to remain neutral if I did have to interact with her.

Then I began to hear rumors– things she’d said about me, about my sister, about my mother, and about my parents’ divorce. My mother’s younger sister went to high school with my father’s wife back in Trinidad. They are the same age, were in the same class. They have mutual friends. My aunt told me his wife had said she didn’t want us in her house (the house, I must point out, my father bought and moved her into, because before they were married, she lived in an apartment in Brooklyn that she rented). That my father would never have treated her the same way that he treated my mother– as if my mother deserved the treatment she received from my father. That if she’d been with him when he finally divorced my mother, she would’ve made sure that he got the house. The last part made my blood boil. My sister was still in high school when our parents’ divorced was finalized. So she would’ve felt good about herself if she’d ensured that her boyfriend’s 17-year-old daughter was forced out of the house where she’d spent her entire life?  What kind of woman says these things?

The kind of woman who says these things is also the kind of woman who will roll her eyes when her husband’s daughter begins to cry before he is rolled into surgery. The kind of woman who will grab her grandson– who has no relation to my father–when the hospital aide calls out to the Barrow family and will rush him in to see her husband without acknowledging that my sister and I have been in the same lounge, feet away, for five hours, just waiting for news. The kind of woman who will look right at us and walk away, leave the hospital without saying a word to us about our father’s condition. We went to the front desk and were told that he’d made it out of surgery just fine, was asleep in the recovery room, and that someone would come get us when he woke up again.

I will not let what happened to my mother happen to me. If that means I have to fight–with my words, even with my fists– I will.

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