Saturday, February 26, 2011

Be Water...

For better or worse, I'm making a home in Korea. I've a new apartment that I will move into in a short two weeks. It is a commitment. I signed a contract. Somehow it feels different than signing the work contract. It is a home. I'm not just swinging by for a year. No, I'm staying... for now. The list in my head begins - furniture, curtains, cutlery, rug, stereo speakers, cat, tapestries, colors, textures, shapes. Turning a bright white apartment into a den of calm for me to exhale in, a place to write my words and stories, a place to build friendships, and dare I hope - love? It is a place to lay down my fears and pick up my comforts. An oasis in a land that often irritates and offends me. I smile and think of how I often irritate and offend. I try to be like water and just flow, but I am more like the waves that crash, banging into others wherever I go. Ah well. Be water... whatever water you are.

It was the closets that convinced me. Three large, meter wide closets in an apartment built with none. The owner had added. A nook, a suggestion of a seperation in the wide open space created comfort to me. I always liked nooks. They seem like little cubby holes to hide velvet covered secrets in. They smell of vanilla and chai and fresh cut grass and peace. No bed for me, just a fold up couch, an overstuffed chair, a table for a desk. I want, oh how I want to just create a space that reflects me. And that is it.

Am I odd to love sleeping on couches? Does it matter? The grey, scratchy one in my grandparents' home was my napping spot. I awakened one day, my hair plastered to my head, drunk on possibility when I heard my grandmother say, "Don't wake that child. She needs to sleep." And my grandfather's response, "I'm going fishing. She likes going fishing." And I did. I loved fishing with him. A quiet man of few words, my grandfather believed in me with all his heart. He was a complicated man but a good one. We went fishing and just sat together. There weren't words, and then (and now) the ability to fish alluded / alludes me. I haven't the first clue how to fish. I think he just wanted to be with me... quietly. It was probably the only time I was quiet when... no, I was a quiet child. I have made up for it over time. Now you just can't shut me up. But I digress.

In all the times we went fishing, I caught one fish. By chance. There was no bait on the hook, it just happened to catch on a fish. A bass, one pound. I picked it up, and it slipped through my fingers. Back to the water and its life it swam.

Perhaps I am like that fish and the little apartment on the 18th floor of a tall tall building just outside Seoul Korea is my own little pond. Maybe I'm a wave crashing about with this little hidden underwater cave. Does it matter?

Creating my own waterfall...
Be water...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Computerization... Danger, Will Robinson!

$3 videos... then $1 videos... going out of business....

Block Buster has gone bust.

I know it was reported in the news some time ago, but it was very real to me when I went home and wanted to see a particular movie which is several years old and had planned on renting. My family doesn't have netflix (and I can't get the movie overseas on line - at least I haven't found a way YET), and when we went to rent it... the local mom and pop video store was closed, the two blockbusters in our area was closed.

It made me think of all those times I would go to the store and hang out in the foreign section. That was where I would chat people up and how I got recommendations for some great movies. I'd never before been exposed to that sort of "foreign stuff". I remember a gal recommending Like Water for Chocolate, and then after seeing it, I was recommending it. What else? Mon Homme, Before Night Falls, The Dancer Upstairs, Belle de Jour. I discovered French Latino actors (Vincent Perez and Olivier Martinez) and Javier Bardem BEFORE. Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith (and not as the Hogwarts teacher). What a great place to meet people and try something completely new and (sometimes) wonderful. An instant conversation starter!

I couldn't make this post without mentioning my Grandfather. Blockbusters - and other stores like it - was also where I found a bunch of old westerns that I ended up buying for my grandfather. He loved them, and I liked seeing him happy. We would watch them and laugh together. How quickly technology changes!

So many things have become computerized / technologized that we miss out on human interaction. You know what I mean... those little day to day things - chatting with the teller at the bank. Anybody have real conversations with an ATM? Check in at the airport: swipe your card, answer a few questions on the touch screen, and voila no fuss no muss! Even doctor's offices have electronic sign up / test results / appointment makers.

Oh, I'm not saying these are bad things. I'm perhaps just feeling a bit nostalgic for those short little conversations. Perhaps I'm realizing how much I took them for granted and need to make sure to have them nowadays. I think I'll go to a sit-down restaurant and chat up the waitress a bit. And then I'll go to the movies - and NOT order the tickets on line. And maybe I'll take a walk and listen for the sound of footsteps of those around me. If they aren't listening to their iPods, I just might even say hello.

The pic is a shameless borrowing from the internet.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Worst Valentine’s Day (Becoming Positive): Honorable Mention UNEXPECTED GOLDEN VALENTINE’S DAY

Pamila Jo Florea

“Where is your family? You never talk about them,” Michael asks as we share a bottle of wine. A gay man with family problems of his own, he is in the closet, and I’m his plus one. Ten years we’ve been friends, and I’ve never mentioned my family. “Do you even have one?”

Well, yeah, sort of. The red wine spills on my shirt, and we are thus distracted with cleaning the spot before it sets.


End of school, 1974. Maybe it was the beginning of the school year, or the middle. Maybe it wasn’t 1974. Does the exact time matter, really? Hot, sweaty from playing, trying to understand death – yet again. Mom. Grandma. The sounds pulls me to the room I share with my sister. Rip. Her posters are pulled down from the wall. The hand pulling down a singing star, left to right, the arc across his face so only one eye looks at me like a ghoulish wink. The watch face stares at me in slow motion. I turn away so my tears of rage don’t show. Sticky circles of tape that she’d painstakingly twirled together pull paint from the walls.

Garbage bags. Clothes, toys, shoes, books. Picking up one, the man swings the bag into the trunk of the car. Something breaks, and we find glass and metal shards in our shirts for days after arriving at. Where do we go? Yet. Another. House. This one… strangers. Sometimes I know the people, usually not. Sometimes a few hours, a few days, sometimes even a year. Point A. Point B. Point whatever. Are these things true? My mind tells me so, but memory is a tricky thing.

Waking up to life, my anger leads me in helping children in Foster Care. I fight for them. Anger is a good emotion when you are a social worker. Anger, tempered with logic and diplomacy.


1990-something, Halloween
Hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. Try to forget loneliness in a bottle of mulled wine.


Turkey with internationals and divorced friends. Fall asleep alone. Thank you, triptophan.


Rent movies, buy Chinese food. Consider converting to Judaism.


New Years
Gay bar with Michael. Lovely men passionately kissing each other. Raw cheeks from all the beards kissing me. Baby, it’s cold outside.


February 13
Again? Seriously? Another holiday?

Red hearts, purple hearts, pink hearts. Where are all the broken hearts? Roses, candies, stuffed animals. Drug store, my eye. Can I find a drug for this? Yes, little girl, you too can have the stupor of forgetfulness. A gallon of ice cream will relieve you of all your woes. Just down the street there’s a nice man selling cocaine for a few dollars and an indecent proposal. Or how about this lovely bottle of gin? We have it all here at Drug Stories R Us.

A little package, wrapped in cellophane catches my eye. Unobtrusive. It sits crooked on the shelf. Three or four more packages. All those little cards, 2 inches by 4, that come flooding back from memory. “Won’t you bee my friend” to a gal I was too shy to approach. “Puppy love just for you” for a boy who had been kind to me. “No horsing around, be my Valentine” and such for the generic other students in class. Thirty-ish cards every year, plus one for the teacher – “You get an A+ in my book!” Ah, the struggle to say just the right thing back then. How does an 8 year old know what’s what? Did the other kids just sign them and write names on them? These cards were for me what I imagined my sister’s posters were for her. I could be wrong.

And here they are again. Those cards in a little box with a 50% off sign.

I pick up the boxes one by one, there are only three or four of them. They are leftovers, the uncool cards. No Disney, no current Saturday morning cartoon, no Hollywood movie cards. Those have been snapped up, and it’s 10 p.m. the day before Valentine’s. A few misfits left over – simply “Be my Valentine” cards.

Somehow they ended up in my bag. Did I decide to buy them? All the boxes? Well, they are 50% off. What’s half of a dollar in the scheme of things?

A cup of tea, a black ink pen, and the work phone list. Some 90-odd names. Quick math. Enough, with some left over. I write my name on the back of each one of them – ducks, tulips, automobiles – who knows what all. And then, like so many years ago, I look back and forth between the list and the cards. Oh she likes riding a bicycle, yeah that one is for her. And he’s a gardener – he gets the one with roses…. and so it goes through several cups of tea until the clock strikes 2 (or maybe 3), and the cards are popped into my briefcase.

Early subway train to the office, dropping little envelopes on each desk. Off to get breakfast – a cup of coffee, and a bagel with shmear. When I return, people are gathered in clusters. What’s all this? Laughter, smiles, hugs. What’s happened? And then I hear my name. Jeri Curl slaps me on the back and thank-you-girl’s me for the happy memories. Tommy Tone Deaf whispers Happy Valentines Day in my ear as he walks by, his custom made suit shimmering under the lights. Cindy Secretary waves to me and hands me a little box of chocolate kisses. Big Boss Man calls me into his office and thanks me for bringing up morale in the office. “Valentine’s Day can be hard on people, and you just made them all happy.”

I did? Yes, I did. One dollar to make people happy. Who knew?

I can afford to spend a dollar and a half an hour to make 30 people smile.

The better question is this – can’t we all?