Tag Archives: boyle heights

On the Fast Lane with the SuperFlyingMonkeys

28 May

giants
Life moves quickly when you have two flying monkeys by your side.

Santa Monica called for work. I drove to Main Street for a work event with SiliconBeachLA. Smiling, chatter buzzing over mojitos, beer and sliders. Tech tech tech. Drinks and introductions, Connections – Stimulating.

A reminder that I am making the right choice in moving to Silicon Valley this summer. Excited.

All networking events must end and this one did with the avoidance of a marriage proposal. That must have been the most progressive and increasingly creepy pick up line I have ever heard.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Susana. Hmmm. Susana, it’s a pleasure. What do you do?”
“Marketing. For law firms.”
“Do you know social media? Yes? I need a social media manager. I need a co-founder. Do you want to be my co-founder?”
“Thank you but I am relocating to the bay area.”
“Really? Where? I like the bay area. I could live in the bay area. I’ve been to Tiburon. Have you been there? Yes? I could live there. We could live in the bay area.”
“Good meeting you but I was just leaving.”
“You have my card. Hmmm. Susana. Such a pleasure. Call me, we need to work together. I’m from Sydney. You’ve been to Sydney? Would you..”
“Goodnight, good meeting you.”

As I quickly scrambled out the door averting one of the more bizarre first time interactions with another human being, I looked forward to my escape up north. I drove to Boyle Heights and spent the remainder of the evening with my parents and family, celebrating my father’s 62nd birthday.

Saturday, 5AM. We are piled into the Honda, filling up the tank with gas.

You can do anything in LA as long as you have a full tank of gas. I will miss that feeling. Completely freeing; to roam a sprawled city intersected by freeways, back roads, and hiking trails full of lululemon.

I placed my two 16 oz. Red Bull drinks on the center divider, covered the girls in their blanket, tuned into KZRW and looked forward to a promise of opportunity as I rolled onto the I-5 North.

Podcasts about India’s marriage and matchmaking trends, sourcing food, and music swirl around the car around me blending into the highway’s hum. Auto cruise.

Two hours. Two and half. Two and 42 minutes go by.

KZRW is long gone – faded into the majestic mountains before the grapevine that block all internet reception. 70 miles. 75. 80. Rolling along en mass.

The air is thick with cow dung flung onto the earth by the huddled, crowded mammals that reek of sickness and death. I hold my breath and shut off the AC. It seeps into my car and takes hold of my nostrils, curling into my breath and wrapping around my gagging throat.

I call my love. His cheerful voice full of excitement takes me away from the I-5N and the dead grass with dark nauseating earth. It blocks out the cows that eat what the others digest. Recurring. I won’t be eating meat for a while.

We plan and together count down the hours of our arrival. Together never sounded sweeter.

Spotify saves the day and my hours quickly fall away until I see the 101 N to San Jose and the exit to Palo Alto. I drive up under the big tree and wake the girls so we can run up the stairs together. Together, always, it has never felt so good.

We stretch and hug and kiss and smile. And out the door we go to downtown Palo Alto. Thai food at Siam Royal for a lunch of yellow curry, Pad sew eew, and tofu, only tofu please.

As we walk out I feel my legs leisurely stretch out before me and I realize I am home. With him by my side, flanked by the flying monkeys, we are home. We stop at Stanford to frolic in the grass, dance around the fountain, and giggle down the archways.

We get home and nap. A blissful unworried sleep shadowed with sounds of light laughter coming through the window, likes rays of sunlight gently warming my skin. Even the shower that follows feels different. As the water runs down my back so goes with it all the tension from the drive, the residue of LA.

Sushi Fuki for dinner. Rolls and nigiri and sake. And smiling girls across me. Gently lifting their pieces with chopsticks, deft hands a true sign of LA childhood.

Champagne once home. We are celebrating many things, all things that lead to us, together in life. Dom Perignon treats us well as we cuddle and love life, love our little family.

After my run, I make breakfast tacos with sizzling bacon and egg whites kissing each other with mozzarella. Yogurt for me, the cows have not left me. Oohs and Ahhs over breakfast, followed by scuttling about as we all walk to the local school. Two Flying Monkeys racing along from tree to tree. Like Santa Claus he strides forth with a sack over his shoulder, but these are basketballs. Layups. Free throw line, base line, back board, rim, start low and carry through – in the wrist. Chest pass. Two on Two. I’ve never felt such admiration for patience and happiness. Basketball drills, who knew?

On the road again but as one. To SF for the Giants. Freezing in our seats we play a game you think of to ease the focus on the chilly weather and bring to light the joy and wonder of life. You breathe in new life into baseball, already a passion, you make it magical.

We shower, we prim, we aim to impress as we make our way to Madera for dinner. The view is amazing. Rolling fog over the hills, enchanting grounds at our feet, and smiling faces all around me. Over wine and seared tuna he dazzles. He charms and he loves and I memorize every minute.

At home over movies all four of us sit close – an entanglement of wonderful cuddling.

In the morning we rise and smile. Off to the market today. Camarones, tomates, aguacates, clamato… I love the sounds of Spanish markets. Mi Piquito de Oro by Ramon Ayala playing in the background as we check out. The musical goodbye of the cash register lingering long after we walk out the door.

At home we cook and we sit. We dance and we sing. We play Loteria and roll our R’s and silence our T’s and laugh. Rich and deep laughter that fills my soul and carries me through. We sit by the low tables and eat our cebiche and talk the language of happiness.

The morning turns afternoon well into the evening and night beckons us to bed for dreams of tomorrow, our tomorrow together. Even the gray following morning that feeds the hurt in my chest doesn’t diminish the gift of today. I woke by your side, in your arms and you loved me as I love you.

Miles away now but with me, I carry you, together, never sweeter, never felt so good.

Swipe the card

28 May

Sparkly sandals, boxes piling up at my side
Platforms
Stiletto black patent leather
kitten heels
Swipe the card

Men’s wear
Dad’s birthday
Lovely polos
Swipe the card

Walking back
Shiny red sign of SALE
Toss it aside
Keep
Swipe the card

Red gel manicure
pedicure to match
smooth legs
Humming of the massage chair
Swipe the card

Whole Foods
Bright and fun
Kale
Wild Caught Salmon
Swipe the card

Sports gear for the girls
sneakers
for basketball
sandals
for summer

A dress maybe?
Or two
And shorts
or a jumper
All three
Swipe the card

Theatre camp
piano lessons
dance
lunch money
Dinner out
a movie
Rent

in LA
on the freeway
pulling in to fill the tank
Swipe the card

Gotta keep moving
and working
to swipe the card

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

14 May

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

The rise and fall of my emotion is punctuated with bouts of extreme joy and maddening sadness on this day.

Your excitement, hardly contained, explodes into a dazzling smile that reaches your eyes – like shining angels that guide my way.

“Cookies! We made you cookies and a cake! It’s a surprise but it’s a cake.”

It’s a reminder of everything good in my life. Seeing the two of you grow up is piercingly beautiful, hauntingly sweet. I see your smiling faces start to grow sharp with the angles of pre-pubescent youth and I gasp.

Where has the time gone?

I held you to my chest and your body would rise with each breath.

Rise and Fall

Now I hold you close as you cuddle up to me but I can’t breathe with the weight of your growing bodies on my chest.

Where has the time gone?

Am I doing right by you? The happiness of holding you close makes me break down inside and weep openly within the confines of my conscious as it weighs heavily on me that I only give you myself. Will you be fine?

Rise and Fall

We get home and you take my hand, running up the stairs to show me your beautifully hand crafted decorations on the sugar cookies you have baked with your tia. Colors of happiness – light hues of green, pink and baby blue.

“A cake, we made you a cake!”

A strong palette of dark chocolate with accents of light pink mini hearts: a reflection of your own spirits. And I know that you are not just fine, you are wonderfully enveloped in my blanket of love.

Rise and Fall

Day by day. Smile by smile.

Rise we will.

Running

4 Apr

Running

I feel the music
flowing
spreading through my body

I have to fight the urge
to dance
Wild and Free

My arms start swinging
propelling me
my legs find the rhythm
hitting the pavement to the beat

The lyrics carry me
Forward

I feel myself
Floating
Invisible

A wide grin flashes on my face
I can fly
I can soar

Stronger
Faster
Happier
I go

Hip hop
Cumbias
Rap
They heal me
Transform me
As I run

Run free

Seeing the Gray in Others – and Doing Something About it

26 Mar

When you go for a walk, while you shop at the grocery store, on a bench outside of work, on the sidewalk, in a class room, you see it…

The slouch of the posture
the roundness of the shoulders
eyes that seem to spill with sadness
behind a large swallow

Downcast eyes
searching for an answer
a tentative sigh
as if afraid to take the most natural step of life

Shakiness of a sentence
a heaviness of the body
sagging
towards earth

Life spent in a muted gray. Sadness, in its most cruel form: depression. What can you do? If you knew, would you actually do it?

A smile. A meeting of the eyes with kindness in your look, even if the moment is fleeting.

A connection.
A reminder that they are seen.
A feeling of validation that they hold a place in this world.
An assertion of existence.
Hope.

In our children, nieces/nephews, in kids of our friends, we learn how cruel words or actions by another can make a deep impact on their vulnerable and developing psyche and we have seen as a society a concerted effort to prevent bullying and the mistreatment of children at that impressionable age.

But what happens when those children who are under-cared, under-loved, under-appreciated, abused even, grow into adults? No longer seen as cute, vulnerable, or helpless – they are commonly tossed aside, dismissed – as if with age (and no help) they are magically cured of the fog that weighs them down.

A small gesture that might make you slightly uncomfortable, a smile to a stranger (I’m not asking you to walk around staring at strangers with wide toothy grins either), can make a difference, however small, on the recipient of your kindness.

My fellow Angelenos, whether native or transplants, I know what you’re thinking as you roll your eyes – eye contact AND a smile? But then I won’t be able to conserve my hip disinterested Hollywood cool look! Alas, no one is as cool as James Dean, and I bet that even he looked a little awkward walking around LA and would have benefited from a kind smile too.

If it’s someone who you know through work, ask them to join you for a cup of coffee or actually stop as you pass by their desk and say a warm hello. Nothing big. Feel the warmth and the kindness as you do it and they will feel it too.

Small acts of kindness, that’s not asking for much. On my first day to class at the local community college, I was frantically looking for where I had to pay the parking fee when a fellow student told me that the first week was free to allow for a smooth transition for students. That’s two acts of kindness there: that student didn’t have to tell me anything and could have walked off as I scurried around, and the school for giving a person a break! I asked the student where the B building was and they graciously showed me the way.

On my second week of class as I was pulling up to the meter to pay for the daily pass of parking, another fellow student gave me their daily pass as they were leaving and wished me an early Christmas (it was February) as they smilingly drove away.

On the fourth week of class, I saw someone else asking students for change (for the parking) looking increasingly frustrated as no one did. I didn’t either but when I walked back to my car to retrieve my belongings I noticed I did have the exact change and nothing more. My last $2 in cash. I walked over and gave them to him, and as he tried to hand a $5 I waved it off and said, “offer $2 to someone else who might need it as repayment”. He was very thankful and touched and I felt REALLY good, really ALIVE as I walked away.

Small acts of kindness, of human interaction, no matter how old we are or from what walk of life we are, make a difference. They pay in higher dividends than the bogus schemes of Wall Street bankers. ;)

Share your moment of kindness – given or received!

Helpless

15 Mar

The tide recedes
each time
a bit further
taking with it a little pain
and a little strength

When the sun is out
it warms my face
On my palms
it tingles
and I sigh
relief

I hear the birds sing again
the sky, a gorgeous hue of blue
beauty everywhere
fresh air
never tastes sweeter
sharp
full of promise

I want to run
but not away
towards something, someone, somewhere
Clearly defined

peace

I smile
wide and free
show my teeth even
and giggle endlessly

Self love
the color of my skin
the way it shimmers in the sun
the shape of my body
the softness of my lips
in harmony with my strength

I feel
and more importantly
I Want
to feel

A day, a week, or a month goes by
and I wake up
feeling strange
unsettled

Heaviness sets
my thoughts pained
a cold sweat
as the memories take hold

Alone
the quiet scares me
as it creeps in
the lack of sound

In a fog
everything hurts
my mind lays
Dormant
withdrawn

Those muted days
I don’t wish on anyone

Sadness fills me
at the thought of
Wasted youth
in a frenzy to feel nothing
to fade

Release the gray days
for the clear blue days
learn to feel again
Not so
helpless

Snapshots on Sunset Boulevard

14 Mar

Lush green hidden lawns
Legs tanned
skin glistening
Step, Step, Step
Running
Mansions
concrete pounding
4 o’clock

Fiery red hair
fair skin in a blue dress
Step, Step, Step
Running
up the stairs
4 o’clock

Blonde side swept
perfect hair
Taut bodies
walking in step
sunglasses
4 o’clock

Serving coffee
leaning over
taking orders
Hollywood pretty
side stepping
tables
4 o’clock

Mercedes G-Class SUV
Actor
Smiling
out
4 o’clock

By the Standard
at the Andaz
near the Plaza
glasses
clink, clink
smiling
tightly
4 o’clock

Amoeba beats
nights at the Bowery
red carpets
closing out
at
4 o’clock

101 snaking
to a crawl
rather cruise
down Sunset
past
4 o’clock

Empty lot
womanly curving
body dancing
Adams apple bobbing
in tune
performing

Hidden
reserved
ostentatious wealth
worn at the sleeve
of a $150 flannel
coffee
4 o’clock

Brown skin
worn clothing
sweat
Step, Step, Step
working
way past
4 o’clock

Shining Eyes, Burning Bright

11 Mar

I look around the room
Seeing smiles

I feel warm laughter
bathing me in
glorious luxury

Moments of spontaneous humor
Bursting fits of disengaged silly laughter

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in unexpected love

Walking in a dance of contorting limbs
body moving back and forth
trying
to cap the exulted happiness that bubbles up from deep within
Head back – melodious music – flowing out to the sky

Falling back onto my bare shoulders
tickling me
with sprinkles of kindness

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in reciprocated love

Holding hands
walking in unison
down a pillow-y pathway
of carefree embrace

Daylight outside
slowly receding
to a muted evening
giving way to the inner guide
of jubilant light

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in honored love

Everyone else melts away
Except
their kind smiles
follow us everywhere

Giddily joining us
in our quest for frozen yogurt
Eagerly following us
with dancing eyes
as we sing out an inside joke

In step
we fall
souls to match
walking down LA streets

Night greets us
In a sweet sleep
I lay my head

Waking to see you still here
by my side
Caressing my hair

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in unmeasured love

Uniforms, Poverty, and Inspiration

29 Jan

In the 8th grade, I was about 13 or 14, I was elected student body president. My teacher, Ms. Kane, was very passionate and talented at instilling patriotic ideals and an appreciation for the little we possessed as well as reminded us of the world that lay at our doorstep.

Her mother was a Holocaust survivor; a slowly fading tattoo of her serial number that was her only identity during the war, still marked her for what she had lived through. When they came to America, they were dirt poor, completely displaced from their home, their bearings still rattled by one of the most grotesque series of events in human history.

Someone was being immature in class and teasing another student about what they were wearing. Ms. Kane became another person. Always on task, she became impassioned and emotional as she described how she only had one black skirt and a white long sleeved collar shirt that she wore to school every day. This was her uniform. But problem was she was the only one wearing it at school. It was her only outfit. As she described how she would be so very careful not to soil her outfit for the next day and how she would fanatically wash it every third day, I fought to check my tears. A few students looked to me to see whether they should laugh and teaser her too and I scowled at them, trying my best to look hard (as hard as I could now look as a student body council prez) and communicate it was best to just stay mum.

Ms. Kane’s story hit a chord with me then, it made this Jewish woman much more relatable to me, a Mexican-American teenager whose only exposure to white people were through a handful of teachers. It also reminded me how important it was that we had uniforms.

You remember how you used to detest wearing school uniforms? Those awful, often scratchy, completely unflattering plaid or horrid solid jumpers and skirts (that I am sure manufacturers dye just to embarrass legions of youth every year), you remember right? Or as my fellow Latinos and/or George Lopez fans would say, “You member right? You member!”

I remember them too. The deep evergreen jumper that I owned when I was in elementary school where some genius decided to send home flyers advising parents that they would be implementing a uniform policy and the colors parents should purchase for their children. All the while in small print it mentioned that this would be a voluntary measure and no one would be forced to purchase or wear these uniforms.

The first day of school I arrived in my jumper, one of two that I owned, and found myself the only one in said jumper in my class. It was quickly pointed out to me by other students in the school yard that I was the only kid that they could see that was wearing the uniform. Well apparently they had not caught sight of my sister.

Every day I walked to school knowing I would be ridiculed, that I would be bullied by the older kids, taunted for being poor and only having the one outfit. I became highly skilled at using words to make those bullies feel stupid but I still walked away feeling wounded, feeling small, feeling inadequate.

I am a PTA member at my daughters’ school, I became the Fundraiser Chair this year, and one of my highest priorities was enacting a school uniform policy. There were complains about the lack of self-expression, about forcing parents to purchase these uniforms, as well as supporting arguments that it would be good for the sixth grade students to have their wardrobe choices checked with the new guidelines. The usual supporting arguments of it lowering the gang and/or explicit music affiliation were mentioned and it became a back and forth stalemate.

I got up and said, “I’m a single parent. I would have no problem making the initial investment of purchasing uniforms for my children since the benefits of not worrying about them being up to the latest fashions, reducing the time of getting ready in the morning, and quite frankly it is much more affordable than buying them several different outfits throughout the year.” Another parent piped up and brilliantly mentioned that we could fundraise for those unable to purchase the uniforms and we could hold an exchange of uniforms amongst parents as children outgrew their uniforms. We pushed and went through the motions and months later my kids are happily wearing uniforms.

It’s not just about leveling the field in the shallow self-expression through clothing amongst children, it’s about leveling the field of the haves and have not’s and instilling a sense of inclusion at a young age for our next generations.

I went to Washington D.C. with Ms. Kane that year and we wore our uniforms all week. We groaned, hollered, and dragged our feet but when we got there we frequently received compliments from elderly white women (again pardon my then limited interaction outside my East LA school neighborhood) about how polished and classy we looked compared to the scantily dressed youth of nowadays. We spend many lunches having a conversation with strangers about where we were from, where they were from, it was almost as if we forgot if we were white or not, we were just human.

So remember, even as awful as these uniforms may seem, they make everyone seem human and approachable, at least a little bit more so, at least as approachable as LA people can be…

-Susana Benavidez
Native Angeleno (so don’t rag on me for talking smack about LA ;) )

Moments with you

21 Jan

I brush my mascara on
Look up and see you
Smiling and dancing towards me

Your smile mirrors mine

I follow your gaze
An inch away from me
My skin burns for your touch

I slip my dress over my head
Hurry onto my heels
Flip my hair over and look my best for you

Your smile mirrors mine

You dance closer to me
Captivate me
Suspend me in time

You bend over me
as you lead me
on a slow dance

Your smile mirrors mine

In the car
Holding hands to sweet melodies
The city lights our candlelight

In the parking lot
kissing me as we clamber out
to the night
full of laughter

And your smile mirrors mine

Dance the night away
the band is out
and we run back to
Late nights over King Taco

Sipping and swaying to the whiskey
In our home
Barefoot and dancing

And your smile mirrors mine

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Zack Hunter | Phenomenological Fiction

Zack Hunter is the pseudonym of a Californian poet, author, artist, musician, and researcher. He lives on a farm and spends his free time reading and writing about whatever it is he is passionate about at the time.

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