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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

''Just say the word and tell me that I'm forgiven''

Alright FF, if yesterday's happy song jerked your tears, I can make no guarantees about today's sad song. I promise that one of these meme categories will soon provide me with a funny, upbeat memory, but not today I'm afraid.

Day 4: A song that makes you sad: Never Gonna Let You Go by Sergio Mendes

I remember the day we went to pick up my mom's ''new'' little red Camaro. She had pointed out several times on the street what kind of car she was getting but she always pointed out one that was shiny and new. "See that one right there? That's a Camaro. That's the kind of car mommy's getting. A red one.''

I was surprised at the used car dealership at how chipped the paint was, how the interior smelled like an old ashtray, how the visors hung badly, and how the stuffing was coming out probably through a cigarette burn in the dark upholstery that was stained with unidentifiable liquids. I touched the car while I peered inside the window and quickly withdrew my hand. It was summertime in Mesa, Arizona, the air was thick and dry and almost burned your lungs going in, and you could easily fry an egg on the hood of that car.

Mom was starting over. My dad, far away in Albuquerque, was no longer holding her back and neither were we: me age 7, the Huta kid age 4, and the Chulster age 8.

Mom had a new job working on the assembly line at Motorola. That and the dealing of weed to a few friends and relatives paid the bills and allowed her to spoil us just enough when we visited her. It paid for her new apartment.

That apartment. It was a tiny duplex on a corner near a car wash with a tree that was good for climbing and oleander bushes that filled with bees. Most of the neighbors had covered their windows in tin foil to reflect the sun out. There were no garages on our block, just carports filled with junk and yards with grass that was yellowed and dried and patched with dirt.

You would never guess by looking at the inside of her place that it was just on the border of the projects, that most of the neighbors on our street were on welfare. Inside the apartment was a twenty-something single woman's oasis of independence, a hideaway where she could reinvent herself in a world unhindered.

She had painstakingly decorated the place in her hip, youthful 80s way. Everything about it was a statement of creativity. Restaurant menus she had nicked and hung up carefully on the dining area wall every which way seemed the epitome of funky and fun. Her bedroom was a den of seduction where she had hung Chinese umbrellas upside down over her bed, covering the light and creating an aura. On top of her dresser she had her own swiveling earring rack filled with big cheap earrings, just like the ones in shops that I loved to spin round and round until I was told to stop. She had covered a lamp in a romantic black mesh which was surely meant to kindle something I knew that I didn't know much about. Her negligees hung from the expensive kind of silk padded hangers, not the wire ones that tangled themselves up on the closet floor impossibly at my dad's place in a mess of dirty laundry and shoes. Those negligees probably fit her nicely now with her new boobs. Her designer friends she met in her photography classes came over and as they listened to my mom's Sade album on the record player, in their cracked voices of holding in a drag from a joint held tightly by a roach clip, they would comment on how creative my mom was and how great her apartment was and how happy they were for her. She must have lay in bed alongside my dad and dreamt for months about how she would decorate her own place once she got away from him and his grandmother's hand-me-downs that filled their joyless home.

But back to the little red Camaro. That car, like the apartment, represented a break from the prison of family life or the prison of my dad, from the ugly long brown family car he had humbly accepted when his grandmother passed, since he was worse off than any of his eight siblings. This was supposed to be a happy day for her, a day of confirmation that everything was going better for her now.

We stood around restless while my mom closed the deal: Chulster, with her signature summer sun scowl and her orange popcycle stained lips, the Huta kid covered in a layer of sweat and grime, with her golden baby curls and pouty red lips, and me, with my stringy thin braids going down the sides of a face over-populated by wreckless freckles.

She paid for the car in cash, shook the dealer's hand, and her three little sweaty girls crammed themselves into the tiny hot Camaro that now had her name on the title. The hairs near our ears curled from the heat and our faces flushed and as she reached over the front seat to roll down the passenger side window, she warned us not to touch the metal trim on the windows because it would burn us. She awkwardly put the keys in the ignition, not used to exactly where it was. The engine started up and we were off. Mom could now tick off another item on her to-do list for making a new life.

The hot breeze gushing into the non-air conditioned car was welcomed with relief and she turned on the radio. ''I was as wrong as I could be, to let you get away from me, I'll regret that move, for as long as I'm living..."

''Mom?'' the Huta kid asked. She scooted her tiny body up to the edge of the hot red velour seat. ''Mommy?''

''Shhhh!'' the Chulster turned around from the front seat and hissed angrily. ''Mom's sad.''

''I'm never gonna let you go, I'm gonna hold you in my arms forever, gonna try to make up for the time I hurt you so…''

I could see the back side of my mom's profile and could tell her cheeks were wet. She switched lanes furiously while wiping her nose with the back of her hand.

''Mommy?'', the Huta insisted in a worried small voice. ''Mommy, ARE YOU CRYING, MOMMY?''

''But if there's some feeling left in you, some flicker of love that still shines through, let's talk about, let's talk about second chances…''

''Mommy is this the 'Never Gonna Let You Go' song?'' Huta urgently needed to know while tapping on my mom's shoulder.

''Yeah honey, it is.''

''Does it make you sad, Mommy?''

''Yeah honey, it does''.

''Is that why you're crying, Mommy?''


Huta looked around at the three of our tear streaked faces and confirmed, ''Me too. I'm sad too, Mommy.'' She looked down and her bright red lower lip protruded outward and then she proceeded to carefully examine the rest of us for clues on how to be sad from a song. ''Never gonna let you go...'', Huta belted out in her tiny voice, to sing along with the rest of us who were singing it softly under our breaths.

I was heartbroken because even at 7 years old I knew the song was a lie. She was letting go, of him and of us, she was only going to hold us in her arms while we were here visiting from Albuquerque, not forever, like the song said. There was no flicker of love that still shone through and there were no second chances and she didn't have any regrets like the guy singing did, otherwise we would all be together again with Dad. So why was she crying? Because she wished she felt like the guy and girl singing? Did she wish that for our sake she didn't need to face life as a huntress just one last time?

From time to time I'll be at a the mall or in the grocery store and I'll hear this song on the musac and there is no amount of time that can pass between my seven year old self and my adulthood to make me not feel as confused as my sisters and I did that day in my mom's little red Camaro.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

"Hey you with the pretty face, welcome to the human race"

You know how when you listen to that one song that makes your throat get all gulpy and mesh and swell with your tear ducts and the subcutaneous layers under your face start to feel puffy and goosey somehow and you realize you're almost crying, but you don't know why the hell you're almost crying because you're not sad you're actually really happy but you just think this song in this moment was written for you, which you realize is ridiculous? And you like the song so much that you keep starting it over while you're driving down the road before it even finishes which makes no sense at all and now you're totally losing it? No? Okay maybe it's just me.

Day 3: A song that makes you happy: Mr Blue Sky by ELO

Mr. Blue is due at the end of July. He was made with love, and let's be honest, a shitload of expensive science and the build up to his formation included a lot of torment for a couple that was already dealing with more shit than they should have been.

Luisito and I have been together for 13 years. I remember him telling me at the very beginning that even if we broke up, he still wanted to produce offspring with me because we were meant to mate (in Spanish it sounded really romantic).

When we first got married it wasn't the right time, according to me. I was going back to graduate school and even though every bone in my body wanted to say fuck it, let's make a human, we waited. Luis always always wanted to at any time since the day we got together. After graduate school we moved back to Spain and we thought it would happen soon, very soon. But then I got a new job and my boss announced she was pregnant and would be needing a lot from me to help out while she was away. She was back to work a few months when she announced her pregnancy with her second child. I knew it was wrong for me to let this influence me, but it did and I worried about my employers not taking me being pregnant well. So I continued to insist that we wait while Luisito continued to want children whenever would say yes. And then the problem was that we were still in that shithole and I wanted a real home before we started a family and I didn't picture my life like this and Luisito just pictured his life with me and some kids and nothing else mattered.

And that's when I screwed everything up. I got depressed with my life and lonely and angry and completely withdrew from Luisito for the first time in our 10 years together. I pushed him far away from me and we almost lost each other, and when I think of how close I came to being alone without Mr. Blue and Luisito I feel gutted. When we finally started to patch up and fix our problems, we had to face infertility. The guilt I held for waiting for so long to find that I was no longer fertile was almost more than I could bear.

But that was before and today it's a beautiful new day.

Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long
Where did we go wrong

Hey there Mr. Blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

This song will forever be my happy song about my baby Blue. I'll sing it to him in the car, I'll sing it to him while I rock him to sleep. I'll put it on and watch him dance. And I'll never ever take for granted again his Papi who I'm finally seeing happy for the first time in too many years. Today is the day we've waited for.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

I've got one hand in my pocket and the other one is smashing my neighbor's stereo

So, you guys didn't really believe it was going to be 30 songs in 30 consecutive days, did you? Come on, cut me some slack - I can barely remember how to type a sentence.

Day 2: Your least favorite song

1995 was not a good year for me.

I graduated from high school in spring and was due to start college in the fall. I didn't know why I wanted to go to college. I only knew that it sounded slightly better than working at Dairy Queen and I had heard that this was what successful people did, so I went with it. I had no real aspirations of what to study and minimal interest in anything other than trying to look cool and listen to music that I though affiliated me with cool. The more obscure the band, the more attractive I thought I became to people with this particular brand of cool, but the shit couldn't be too obscure, otherwise I would lose touch with the whole coolness barometer altogether. By the time I graduated from high school I had a good, trained grasp of the fact that anything liked by the masses, with a few exceptions, was automatically suspect, even though I knew very little about what really made music good.

I was heading to a state school. My parents had lacked the cultural capital required to know what went in to exploring a college education for their kids. There were no trips to the nearby PAC-10 schools or out east for interviews or campus visits. I was never encouraged to do things that might look good on a college application. My parents didn't know the first thing about looking into scholarship options. The only time I ever remember my mother talking to me about college was to say that her dream for me was to go off to college and marry an older boy that was about to graduate which would apparently secure me a worry-free future sustained by a college boy salary. Great vote of confidence to get me started at college, eh?

I thumbed through the housing options catalogs and was sold on the idea of 'getting the most out of an authentic college life experience' where I would have an 'important networking opportunity' and would likely establish relationships that would be memorable to me throughout my life.

This was a golden opportunity to try out new versions of myself. I had a clean slate and was heretofore unpigeonholed. I could change my hair, my clothes, my interests, and my taste in music. I could redefine the coolness barometer altogether to fit with the real me. The trouble was, I wasn't comfortable enough with myself to determine what it was I really liked and felt lost without a reference to see how I measured up. I looked around me and was overwhelmed with trying to determine where I belonged.

In high school I had barely been within the margins of the cool crowd. I didn't get asked on dates or to dances a lot, but I got invited to parties and was generally good at tethering myself to people that were well accepted. I was carefully perceptive about what kind of belts were being worn at the time, just how worn my levies should be, and the minimum acceptable number of earring holes required to be part of the crowd. So even though I was a few notches down on the pretty scale compared to the girls I most admired, I fit in with the scenery and didn't draw too much attention to the fact that I had no business being there or anywhere really.

But in the college dorm environment, I couldn't clearly identify the alternatively cool anti-mainstream crowd I had elbowed my way into in high school and I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of stunningly beautiful, rich women in their prime that were rushing for sororities, whose parents had shipped them off to sunny Arizona from the east coast. I looked around and knew that being on the margins of cool wasn't going to cut the mustard. But I didn't have the confidence to attempt to be accepted at the sorority level. So I duly linked greek life to the claim that it was all just a bunch of bullshit and that I hated it, while I secretly browsed the catalogs of the sorority houses and imagined what it would be like to live in one of them.

I was lonely as fuck at a time when I was unable to appreciate aloneness. I became friends with some of the girls that weren't really into the sorority thing. They were nerdy and smart and knew things like that U of A had a top notch medical school and what your GPA had to be to get into law school. They were all so sure of what they were studying and spent hours at it, while I wandered around bored, with my books barely cracked open. I hung out downstairs on the cement benches where people with obscure t-shirts that seemed integrated and happy and cool smoked cigarettes, but I was too shot down in my loneliness to approach them, only able to muster up occasional eye contact in the hopes that someone would come talk to me. The few fleeting relationships I managed to form made no impressionable impact on me. I don't remember a single person's name of the people I shared months living alongside.

This Alanis Morissette song was popular at the time and the girls in the room in front of mine blasted it multiple times a day with their door wide open for the entire first semester. Every young 18 year woman - nerdy, hippy, alternative type, sorority sister - sang this song from the top of their lungs while clutching their hearts or wrapping their arms around other like-minded women and they all felt like it was written just for them. They were all high but grounded, sane but overwhelmed, lost but hopeful, baby. They knew it was all gonna be fine fine fine. I guess they all had one hand in their pockets and the other giving a high five and I hated them all for their camaraderie and their college life experience that I felt so disconnected with.

Besides, the song is just dumb. Who puts one hand in their pocket while the other one is playing the piano? Please.

I left U of A after one semester.

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