Tag Archives: downtown los angeles

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

Baby Chicks Flock: Loners always Lead

21 May

Have you every been on a farm and played with baby chicks? Ok, if you’ve been to a farm more than a few times and have never played with baby chicks as a kid, you seriously missed out. You can scoop them up and get them all riled up and quickly let them go before they poop on your hand. It’s a good time.

If you had the chance to chase them around the yard, you’ll remember that as you paused long enough to rest your hands on your knees to catch your breath, the baby chicks would scatter about lost, trying in vain to rearrange into the proper grouping. They would flock to one another, huddle close as they flapped their wings and chirp as loud as they could, their confidence growing with their unified front. But you would always have the lone baby chick off to the side, captivated by the confusion as if thinking, why am I alone? Why is no one flocking to me? This would usually be the toughest chick that was used to being followed but when a six-year-old kid is going hog-wild running and giggling in the yard, no one follows the leader. They flock together as a crowd and as a crowd grow stronger and set in their ways, leaving the leader to the side, alone and confused.

During a recent exercise at work I noticed the same phenomenon. We were caught up on the excitement of being forced out of the comfort of our 9 hour a day nest, i.e. a fire drill with mandated evacuation. As we made our way to the general meeting area, people ran about excitedly until they found their “friends” and congregated in tight little circles laughing loudly and using exaggerated expressions to show how much fun they were having, how well they belonged. And off to the side I saw the day-to-day leaders of the office, i.e. the big bosses, standing by themselves shuffling from foot to foot looking confused as they felt the glaring presence of loneliness seep into their hard armor of fearless leader. They looked out-of-place as the sunny LA afternoon was awash with a glow hinting of summer BBQ’s, pool parties, and picnics in the park – everyone huddled under summer’s social blanket that warms and brings all Angeleno souls alive.

And just as quickly as I felt sorry for them, I realized that it is just as easy to walk up to a group as it is to isolate yourself and expect others to come to you.

So I looked up, made eye contact and waved – a friendly and artful gesture that says, hey I am happy to see you, come over. And they did and we talked and they relaxed and they felt at home again. And as soon as they reclaimed their sense of self, they led the way in conversation and direction and I was happy to sit back and enjoy the ride because there’s nothing more enjoyable after rousing a bunch of baby chicks than to gather the lonely one and gently coax it back to the group until it starts chirping with authority again.

Lesson of the story: Everyone has a tough time bridging the gap from alone to company – meet them halfway: smile, wave, and engage.

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!

LA Morning Commute with the SuperFlyingMonkeys

19 Mar

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

Bronzed Beauties

5 Mar

Running
little legs
Giggles that chase
fear away

Stopping only
for a look
a nod
and they’re off
running
again

Warm light
bouncing off
sun streaked hair
Bright red
shiny cheeks
Riding high on laughter

Smiles
growing wide
Eyes full of wonder
twinkling on the water’s surface
Breaking it
as they jump in

Endless giggles
Bouncing off

Jumping higher
Reaching heights
of carefree happiness

Sunning
Bronzed limbs
in the glow
of California desert nights

Lost in Translation

28 Jan

I was 15 and missing class for the day as I walked along my dad to an immigration one stop shop to renew his green card. By then, our relationship was distant, making for awkward conversation as we waited, mostly in silence, for his number to be called.

He had walked into my room the previous evening, looking slightly nervous, to ask me if I could take the day off school and help him with paperwork and translating questions. He didn’t mention what kind of paperwork and I didn’t ask. I simply said, “Claro que si papi!” And he walked back out, his shoulders noticeably relaxed.

The following morning we got up early and briskly walked to the bus stop. As we waited, he asked if I would miss much school work. I shook my head and we rode in silence, using the noisy backdrop of multiple conversations, music, arguments, and laughter from our fellow bus riders as noise filler.

“Numero 143!” The loudspeaker was all base and garbled sound that you had to strain to hear it, followed by multiple questions of, “Que dijo? Cual numero?!” I looked down at our number, #257…

I looked around and saw the snaking line in front of us, and even longer mess of a wait behind us. I had the large manila folder close to my chest, its contents all neatly filled out and in the appropriate order. We went through the questions: Color of Hair -, “Negro no?”, Color of Eyes -, “Cafe”, Height -…and so on. What year did you enter the US? Have you ever illegally done this, that, and other idiotic questions that were meant to trick you into losing your green card.

“Numero 257!” We hurried up to the window, my father a step behind me, and I beamed brightly at the zombie-esque employee behind the window. I pushed the paperwork toward him and he rattled off a litany of questions, each to which my father would look to me before responding in the affirmative or negative. He looked so serious, that face that I came to know every time he was in front of a figure of authority, that face that thinly masked the knots of nervous terror that threatened to snake through his pores. His yellow pallor and slight suffle from his left to right foot reflected his fear, this precarious arrangement by the US government that allowed him to be in the North side of the Mexican/US border with his family – his wife and kids that is. I was standing next to him so I did the only thing I thought to do, I reached for his hand and held it in mine and gave it a slight squeeze. To my surprise, he squeezed back and released a pent up breath. Those long heavy breathes that you release when you forget to breathe.

Thump. The stamp of approval came down on my father’s paperwork and the zombie gave me the proof of renewal as well as intructions of things to watch out for in the mail.

As we stepped away I saw hundred of people just like my dad, a yellow tint betraying their fear, their unsteady stance on slippery ice of the INS.

As we left that dimly lit and dingy building and walked out into the bright sunshine of Olympic/Soto, he cheerfully asked me if I wanted to grab a bite. “Quieres una Hamburguesa?” I didn’t. I wanted to go home and rid myself of the depressing images of hope and broken dreams that the building had left behind in my mind. I wanted to stop the awkward company of my father and lock myself up in my room to listen to music and read a book. But his smile was so rare, it seemed out of place in his usual solemn face, and I remembered how he had returned the squeeze when we held hands that I nodded my head and smiled so he could remember his five year old Chuchi that had always quickly done anything he requested.

Instead of hopping on the bus we walked to Tom’s Burgers on 4th/Soto and ordered burgers, fries, and a shake for me. I told him about how my swimming was going, about my history class, about all of the subjects that I enjoyed. That afternoon I had my father back; the one that used to help me with homework art projects, read to me and protect me when I was in pre-school.

It dawned on me then how hard and embarassing it must have been for him to ask me for help for a matter that I would never have to face since I won the lottery at birth and was born in this country.

My mother always came to me when she needed translating, documents filled out, appointments for me to attend with her, but my father… He had never asked for my help before then and I was happy that I had quickly assented, that I had agreed energetically to having lunch with him.

He told me about his adventures as a young man; stories about crossing the border, the comedy he peppered in didn’t quite hide the perils and unfortunate events that crossing illegally with a pollero invited. The fry scratched my throat as I chewed and tried to swallow the mouthful along with my sense of shame of not having wanted to prolong my stay with my dad. But the shame was nothing compared to the ache that I felt for the millions of unfortunate undocumented fathers out there whose standing on the North side of the border was even more precarious than my father’s.

President Obama will release his immigration reform plan tomorrow and I have a seed of hope hesitantly sprouting that his plan includes a major upheaval of our class system: the third class that suffers in silence and moves noiselessly from unwanted job to job without any right to vote or voice their injustice, the second class that holds green cards but are not yet citizens and do not have the right to vote, and the rest of us – US Citizens (via birth or naturalization) that are free to enjoy 100 % of our rights, as disparate in education and economic mobility opportunity as they may be, there is still a door for us that grants us 100% of the right to seek those opportunities. And with shame I acknowledge that I have often forgotten how fortunate I am for having a US birth certificate, that sacred paper that allows me to live the life I have led…

I hope that President Obama pushes his immigration plan forward and doesn’t allow for the stories of suffering undocumented millions to be lost in translation.

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

Series of Non-Moments

27 Nov

The glow of the downtown skyline below me, so close I can almost step over the edge of the hill and walk over to it, but such a distant world from me. 

I look down at my evergreen ribbed sweater top and pull the sleeves over my tight knuckles and crouch down near the dead grass.  The cool air feels good against my cheeks.  The frost is coming, I can feel the weather turn as it nips at my cheeks and the edges of my ears.  But the burning of my eyes from all of the crying is all I can feel at this moment; the ugliness of the most recent fight still weighs me down and forms a pit in my stomach.

The cramping in my legs forces me to get up and as I inhale sharply I realize I haven’t been breathing.  I keep doing this; suspending reality and letting time slip by as I fall into my non-dream world.  I can’t even tell you what I think or don’t think about during these moments, but it scares me that I kept doing it more and more.  A series of unaccountable non-moments is preferable to the waking moments that I keep walking back to.

We lived in a tiny two room illegal unit carved into the side of a cliff and had to walk twenty steps up and down each time I would ascend or descend into our out of our self-created hell.  I opened the door and found him sitting by the dining table, mirror red-rimmed vacant eyes looking right back at me.  I don’t bother to acknowledge his presence and walk past him into the bedroom.  How depressing these walls are, seemingly pushing in all around me, inching closer and closer with each passing day.

We thought we had been happy once but when I try to think of what we spoke of, of what we shared in thoughts and likes, or even if we relayed dislikes, I can’t come up with a single conversation we had. 

Wherever we’d go, they would ask if we were siblings.  Tall, with dark thick hair, lightly bronzed skin, and striking features – there’s worse to be compared to.  I don’t think we saw anything beyond each other, at least nothing real, other than skin deep.  I thought I saw a shared pained past, an inner struggle to contain demons, a desire to move forward and work towards a new life with each other.  The last one is what bit me in the ass, that was just a projected shared trait, a one-sided fantasy that never took any real root in our relationship.

I didn’t drink then.  That wasn’t until I wanted to drown out the pain of failure. 

He didn’t drink much either, I figured (hoped) he didn’t like it and only did it socially but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t the case once we were married.  Once we were married… How could it change so drastically? 

Back in the bedroom I changed into a t-shirt and crept into bed.  As I heard the sound of the light switch flick off I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep.  I heard his shuffling as he stepped out of his clothes and slipped in beside me and I concentrated on willing myself to sleep.  As the bed shook from his silent sobbing I squeezed my eyes tightly and gripped the blanket so my eyes wouldn’t accidentally give me away.  But as I felt him slither towards me I quickly fell into my non-dream moments and slipped away..

When You’re Smiling…

19 Oct

As Louis Armstrong croaky crooning convinces me, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you…

For all of those of you who are unfortunate enough to be my Facebook friends, you will notice that I constantly urge others to strain happiness and hope from everything good in life, both big and small, and firmly believe that by conserving and accumulating small feats of joy and victories you will eventually find an overall sense of contentedness if not happiness in your daily life.

Lately it seems that with each breath I take, I exhale out a sigh that is pungent with a drunken happiness.  My lips cannot stop curling up and I keep angling to lean back on any surface and lay there like a happily fed cat, licking away any remnants of the taste of luxury that life provides me with.

I walked down to the weekly Farmer’s Market all smiles to load up on avocados, broccoli, carrots, onions, spinach, and other vibrant greens and my favorite vendor gave me a hefty discount for cheering him up with my bubbly demeanor.  Bubbly, me?  Who knew?!

Filled with the glow of the compliment (and savings!) I floated over to the flowers where I was greeted with my usual, “Hola Senorita Susan, como le puedo complacer hoy?”  I can’t help but beam up at him every time and he rewarded me today with a half off discount.

Seemingly trivial things in life sometimes really do make you feel special and chip away at the stresses and worries and turn those frowns upside down. :)  In my case, they turn in to a wide grin slapped on my face that probably make people question my sanity. :)

But I can’t help it and I can’t stop believing it.  My stroke of luck, my change of personal circumstance, the gains I have made professionally.  Life is beautiful and I can’t stop smiling now because everyone seems to be smiling along with me…

 

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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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