Category Archives: Real Talk

Saying Goodbye to Sake

Standard

 Over the past few weeks, my heart has been slowly breaking. It’s been trying, difficult and frustrating to wrap my fingers around the idea that a piece of my life is missing; there’s a definitive void – not just within me, but surrounding me. Words have failed me, and at every turn I feel like I’m going to crumble to the ground, overcome by emotion and struck by reality.


Back in college, I was going through a transitionary period. Becoming a fifth year senior isn’t usually commendable but at an institution like UCSB – it also wasn’t uncommon. It was the Summer of 2007 and I had just moved out of Isla Vista to the Mesa – a wonderful area near downtown Santa Barbara, surrounded by a stunning almost 360 view of the Pacific Ocean. My best friend at the time, a wonderful, warmhearted gal with an affinity for furry friends, moved in with me and between the five housemates we had two cats – Ssleman, a beautiful grey and white cat with a warm heart and a little black kitty that hid every chance it could; and then there was Roxy, a Golden Retriever / Yellow Lab puppy with more energy than I’d ever seen. After living there for a few months and going through a few mental moments of manifest destiny, I decided it was time – time for me to get a cat. I needed something to love beyond myself, to remind me that I was worthy of love; I needed to care about something to remind myself of the circular motion of life.


Arriving at the shelter, I gallivanted into the cat room and immediately felt at home. Throughout middle school and high school, I’d volunteered at cat shelters and there’s nothing like some kitty cuddles to brighten your mood and cultivate altruism. I glanced at an 8 month old Siamese that I immediately wanted to bring home, and a litter of orange tabby kittens not more than 2 weeks old. After getting to know me a bit, the young man working this room had a visceral lightbulb moment…“There’s a cat over here that I think will be perfect for you; he’s a little trickster and a lover.”  As we walked over to the carrier, a beautiful blue-grey cat sat poised in the back of the cage. “No…” I mused “…what about the playful girl next to him?” The man smiled back “Why don’t you guys go into the play room, and if it’s not a good fit we can keep looking.”

As Maguro was plucked from his perching position and was handed to me, his front paws reached out around my neck and he looked at me like I was home.  From the moment we were in the play area, he flopped and stretched ten ways to Sunday, purring, prancing and pawing at me. Looking up with a glimmer of gratitude in my eyes, I laughed “Ok, you guys got me…I’ll take him!”

As it turned out, I couldn’t bring him home immediately – upper respiratory infections are incredibly common in shelter cats and he’d just come down with one. Instead of bringing him home, I played with his sister – Saba – and it felt like she knew I was taking her brother away. I whispered that I would take good care of him and she purred in response.

Eight years later, I can say that without a doubt – he’s actually taken care of me.  From Santa Barbara to now four different homes in Los Angeles, Sake has been my confidant, my best friend, my furry little man and the light of my life. He’s gotten me through heartbreak and deaths, losing friends and losing my mind. 

 

My little Sake bomb. Sir Saks a Lot. He was the most playful, loving creature I’ve ever known. He would wake me up by pouncing on my chest and announcing his hunger with a miniature roar, he would zoom around the apartment with gusto and cuddle-hug you like he was a person. Sake converted friends that had sworn they were solely dog people, and made cat lovers rejoice. He was the best thing that has happened to me in my 30 years of existence. And now, he’s gone.

We only noticed the symptoms a few weeks ago and it wrenches my soul to think if we could’ve saved him. The last two weekends were full of friends that I consider family, doting their love and happiness on him and he loved back in kind – curling up and lapping up attention like it was his job. But in the back of my mind, I was scared, sad and confused. It felt like just yesterday, he was running around in the Santa Barbara sunshine, lounging in the flowers and running to my car from down the street whenever I returned from campus. And now, I was feeding him by hand, cradling him like he was my child, wishing for a better tomorrow. But that better tomorrow never came.

Yesterday, Sake lost his battle against lymphoma. The last thing he ever did in his life was jump into my arms, almost in parallel to the way he came in. We held his paws, wiped his eyes and sang with him until his final curtain call. I’ve never been so conflicted and overrun with emotion; I don’t know if I’ve even ever been this uncontrollably sad. I miss my dapper little man but I know he’s in a better place, cathartically chasing mice and lapping up love in the great beyond.

Because of Sake, I know what it means to love, to care, to be a friend and just listen; I know the true meaning of life, to love and be loved. When you get home tonight, hug your pets…hug your loved ones, life is too short to be anything but blissful. RIP Sake, I only hope that I can have half the effect on the world that you did.

              

Advertisements

[I Can’t Breathe] Race Relations in 21st Century America

Standard

Growing up, I was always cognizant on some basic level that my life was different than my peers; I felt psychologically befuddled by my social experiences and more or less like an emotional and physical outcast.  Sure, there was the fact I towered over my friends at 6′ by the time I was leaving elementary school – or that my penchant for math problems superseded those around me. Dressing up for Halloween, I was teased for my Pipi Longstocking and Belle costumes, and over the moon when Jasmine and Mulan became Disney princesses. In middle school, I tried using sun-in, my hair turned bronze; my mom and I frequented an African American hair salon in Palo Alto – Mixed Media, if you want to be specific – and one Summer, we tried relaxing my hair; instead of being easier to straighten, it got brittle, crimped and was more or less destroyed. My skin didn’t burn, instead it evened out into a shade of nutmeg, spotted with dark freckles around my nose.  There’s thinking you’re different, but for me – it was more than that; I knew I was different.

My parents got together in the Bay Area during the 70s; in a time of free love, open minds and radical change.  A goofy, gangley Jewish man from Oregon and a formidable genius from Compton, they met matching wits at Stanford and to this day, haven’t stopped. At the time, the two sides of the family had starkly different responses; my mom’s sister lamented ‘But, you couldn’t find a nice Black one?’ while my dad’s father, founder of the Corvallis chapter of the NAACP, couldn’t be more excited about my mom being part of the family.  Their reactions were opposite, but equal – each painfully aware of the state of race relations in America.

A nation divided by external and negligible traits like socio-ecoonmic status, levels of education and the color of our skin, those with power are busy tearing neighborhoods apart with closed fists and closed minds instead of building our brothers and sisters up with open arms.  Over-militarized and by in large, uneducated, police forces roam city streets in militia formation, filling tension filled streets with former war weapons and palpable, cultural fear.

As a society overglamorized by the news and undereducated by what’s important on a human, spiritual level, we’re so busy putting our community – friends, family, peers, celebrities and strangers alike – into boxes, confirming and or denying formidable existence and their overall importance that some can forget – we’re all members of the human race. As a law of differences and similarities, I might not be much like my Asian sisters and Australian brothers on the other side of Earth – but we’re certainly, undeniably more similar than I am to my cat, or to a rug, or a piece of grass.

I’m a human, an multicultral member of society;
I’m an American and I can’t breathe.

We’re a multicultural melting pot drowning under the repressive regimes of the powerfully ignorant;
and we can’t breathe. 

IMG_4773.JPG

Culturally, the compounding of our spotted, racially fueled past has slowly but surely led us here. It’s not that what’s happened recently is new news; African Americans historically have been disproportionately targeted, arrested and gunned down in the name of ignorant police work for decades. And now, within the span of less than two weeks, not just one – but two – police officers have gotten off on non-indictments in Federal Court cases for killing unarmed African American civilians. It’s become increasingly clear where those in power stand, people of a darker skin color, lower economic or academic rank are demonized while policemen, with their overrightous sense of power and what now appears as contempt for their human brothers, are held to outrageously different standards.

Much like the aftermath of the Fergason protests, last night 223 protesters were arrested in New York City for demanding equality, fairness and the essential staples this country was built upon.  The gentleman who captured the video of Eric Garner was charged with a crime.  But, the policeman who killed him with unnecessary and lethal force – he wasn’t even indicted on a crime, in the same manner that Michael Brown’s killer was set free, sans charge.  What it sends is an unfortunate message, historically echoed throughout minority communities: our lives matter less than others; we matter less than others. The way our justice system works it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, albeit an unfortunate one: instead of maintaining a system of checks and balances, with prosecutors and policemen working side by side in the same office, there’s only one system, and it’s busy keeping itself in check.

IMG_4768.JPG

Newton’s third law of motion is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – and right now, there are citizens in each and every corner of the nation that are finally inspired, through outrage, frustration and passionate persistence, to exact change on their external world. Peaceful protest, Non Violent Actions, Rallies – they’re not the end all; but they’re most certainly the means to an end – and people are listening.

On Monday, President Obama announced an executive order consisting of 50,000 body cameras for the nations 630,000 strong police force. After the outcome of the Garner case, it’s easy to argue that video cameras don’t do enough – but without this camera evidence, do you honestly believe that our streets would be full of protests and our cities would come to a standstill? In a recent news conference, Mayor De Blasio of New York City has demanded that the 20,000 member  police force undergo mandated retraining on the use of lethal force as well as community awareness.  As it turns out, most police officers across the country work in a different county than they live in – meaning that they most definitely don’t serve ‘the community.’ But when body cameras can be turned off, and the police can return to work after their mandated seminars – where does that really leave our nation? We need immense reform from both the top down and the bottom up.  California’s set the tone by passing Prop 47, decriminalizing non violent offenses and lessening the bulging prison population, and an assorted number of states have legalized marijuana – decreasing the amount of nonviolent crimes and offenders.  On top of that, there’s the issue of for profit prisons, some of which need a 90-100% retention rate to stay in business.

IMG_4769.JPG

We’re stopping traffic to beg for equality, we’re staging protests, wielding signs and standing strong as a community because we refuse to be silenced any longer. So go, find your voice, wage your peaceful protests and non violent wars, because until we’re heard – as a nation, as part of the human race – we can’t breathe.

[Write On] Repurposing San Francisco’s Old Bay Bridge

Standard

Bustling with energy, Muni’s and metro stops – San Francisco boasts tan exponentially growing Tech Bubble, swarming with passionate, hungry young professionals seeking to make a name for themselves.  Rolling hills full of painted ladies, vertigo inducing buildings and shorelines full of wildlife engulf the city from all sides.  Even though places like Delores Park, Lands End and Golden Gate Park are scattered throughout the city, I’m typically left feeling over-industrious and slightly out of touch with nature. Good news, is there’s a new plan in the works that could change all that.

Recently, London’s Westminster Borough approved a ‘Garden Bridge’ for the city – and the more I’m enamored by the idea of converting something so rote and industrial into a whimsical world engulfed by local flora and fauna, the more I’d love to push for San Francisco to take on something similar with the Old Bay Bridge. For the last year, it’s been made increasingly clear that the initial plans to disassemble the Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge over the course of two years has caught a kink; slowly, but surely, the CalTrains budget of $6.4 Billion has been dwindling and there’s been no actual end in sight for the project.  To boot, with the abundance of natural wildlife around the area in the wetlands, sand flats and eelgrass beds – there are multiple ecosystems that would effectively be destroyed if said plans to take down the former Bay Bridge follow through.

Growing up in the South Bay, I’ve seen ample changes to the city.  Over the last three decades, ginormous buildings have drastically altered the SF skyline while earthquakes like Loma Prieta have done their duty to attempt and level it.  Back in ’89 when the quake hit, the Bay Bridge as we then knew it collapsed from the upper deck. In one of the largest public works projects in the history of the United States, the new bridge finally commenced building in 2002 and after a decade of work, finally opened to the delight of the city in 2012.  At the time, there wasn’t a question on what to do with the former Bay Bridge – disassemble it, destruct it, destroy it; just get it out of there!  But by the time the Summer of 2013 rolled around, their bank account had zeroed out but the Eastern Span was only half gone. In lieu of upping the toll fee to subsidize the high cost of taking down the rest of the bridge, there are a few other ideas in the works that I think are just phenomenal.

In an effort to pinch a few pennies on demolition costs, the city is considering leaving a few piers standing, which means the options and opportunities for repurposing the Bridge are effectively endless.  Minus converting the entire thing into a parking structure (which, one could argue, the city desperately needs), or apartments, condos or – heaven forbid, more tech offices, I vote the still standing Eastern span of the bridge is converted into a garden, park or the like. Much like the Garden Bridge in London, if the old partition of the Bay Bridge was saved and reinvented, it would be a wonderful compliment to how corporate San Francisco has become while giving the city a breath of fresh air – literally. 

What do you think should come of the old Bay Bridge?

Let me know in the comments below!

[I Can’t Breathe] The Dawn of the New Civil Rights Movement is Here

Standard

.

IMG_4089.JPG

It’s time for a new civil rights movement, a community rights movement, where as citizens we feel safe in the presence of police officers instead of in fear of them. The looting – the violence – they’re not the answer; but you – you’re listening now, right? Protestors are blocking freeways, stopping people from getting to work- you might be mad; but imagine how it feels not being treated as an EQUAL in this country. As a multiracial member of society, as a woman, as a HUMAN BEING: I’m disgusted by the type of responses I’m seeing and I’m sad at the direction this country is going.

Change has never come easy, and it’s always had a price; if you’ve never had to fight for your freedom, to fight to be seen as an equal, if you’ve never had to think twice about your unequivocal right to be treated humanely by society – rethink what’s happening to your brothers and sisters, your neighbors and community.

IMG_4088.JPG

Violence, theft, destruction of property; they’re not the answer – but neither is treating a proportion of this country like they’re subclass citizens while inappropriately placing the police on a pedestal.

Do you have friends who’ve been arrested for bullshit? I have. Friends tased, put into the hospital with a broken nose and collapsed lung? Yep. And you know what scares me- knowing that if he was of color he would have been SHOT. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, and if you DONT have an issue with the outcome of the grand jury, the ourpouring of community response on all fronts and the protesting – please get an education or see yourself out of my life. For the rest of us, it’s time. Raise your voice, raise your spirit, raise your community up and let our nation know that you DEMAND change, and you need it now.

[Real Talk] Cat Calling is Only Cool if You’re a Cat

Standard

Earlier this week, a group called iHollaback  took the initiative to conduct a social experiment on the streets of NYC to show just how much unwanted attention a woman can get by simply stetting foot out the door.  Since 2011, they’ve been giving people a social soap box to engage their communities and share stories – stories of when they’ve felt verbally and physically intimidated, harassed, threatened and assaulted.  This video encapsulates what each and every woman has gone through – multiple times in her life, and sometimes – multiple times in her day.  Haven’t seen it yet? Before we get into it further –

First, we need to define cat calling – and I want to make it very clear, there’s a difference between acknowledging the presence of another human being – and making a woman crawl in her skin.

greeting def

vs

catcall

Cat calling is street harassment – it’s unnecessary verbal contact that typically comes from a distance – much further than casual conversation would happen in your personal space; it has an intention – and it’s usually physical.  Because let’s face it, you didn’t have a sudden affliction for my personality, my intelligence, my wit or incredibly awkward sense of humor; you’re commenting on how I carry myself.  Because words tend to mirror desired action, women have learned to read through the lines – if you’re talking about my body, it’s because it’s desired, even if that desire is momentary and fleeting.  Most Men won’t understand what it feels to feel physically intimidated on a daily basis, but for women – that’s everyday life.  Being 6′ tall, I can safely say that I don’t feel that way the majority of the time, but it happens – it happens much more often than it should.  Though the video shows a predominantly vocal minority audience, don’t believe for a second that a wink, nod or lurking look can dissuade women the same way that verbal assault does.

If there’s one town in the US that’s synonymous with Halloween – it’s Santa Barbara.  Gaining notoriety for their annual week long rager, I didn’t attend UCSB until 2003 – a tad after it was “good”, according to every other class before us.  But what I noticed, and was part of, were a generation of young women taking hold of their sexuality and their bodies. Unfortunately, that comes at a price.  We live in an age where the greater community is more likely to tell me to put some clothing on than they are to tell a man how to treat a woman correctly.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling sexy, and it’s a shame that men have created an atmosphere where your physical safety feels threatened if you show some skin. Our twenties are supposed to be when we’re at our physical peak, so why not; but we’re more than our legs, eyes and lips – we enjoy thick books and nice scotches, a hearty burrito and video games, and are the perfect storm of beauty and intelligence.

My worst fear is that somewhere  in some strange town, there’s some woman that’s responding, appreciating and loving the attention and reinforcing bad behavior. Somewhere, along the line – these things have become learned and deeply ingrained in modern, male society.  Walk down Hollywood Blvd, Venice Beach or through Downtown LA and watch as the women with headphones on expertly weave through the crowd, avoiding interaction at all costs.

I view strangers as friends I haven’t met yet, and chances are you’ll catch me waving, nodding and saying hello to dog walkers of any ilk, adorable old couples and young professionals doing their thing. I say ‘Hello’ as a form of acknowledgement. That’s my intention, to acknowledge. Whenever I’ve interacted with a man on the street, there’s three ways it happens: frequently, there’s eye contact and a head-nod; cool. Sometimes, there’s a head nod and then they try to stop me to talk to me. I’ve been followed home more times than I can count on one hand. And then I’ll walk around the block so they don’t actually know where I live, because that’s scary. Or there was the time I was followed into my parking garage. But sometimes, if they’re looking at me like they see through me, my clothes – I feel threatened, I don’t want to acknowledge them. And in those situations, I’ve been verbally harassed, berated, followed – and at times, even been called racist.  Im not saying don’t say hello, I’m not saying don’t acknowledge people – but your comments compound upon countless others so think of your intention before you speak.  If, after all this conversation, you’re still unsure whether you should ever catcall, just follow this simple flowchart:

IMG_3058.JPG