Friday Lunch! Weekly Blog

Green Card Blues

It comes as a surprise to many American friends that I, their Canadian friend, have been stressed about maintaining my visa status ever since I crossed the border in 2009. “But you’re Canadian,” they say, as if Canadian is American. “Can’t you just get citizenship already?” as if I enjoy worrying about employment sponsorship year […]

Coffee Talk

This morning, while having my Keurig coffee, and slathering extra crunchy peanut butter on over-priced cinnamon bread, I heard the 911 call made by the Parkland, Florida shooter a few months before he entered the school and killed 17 people. The television newscaster announced that it was “coming up next,” so I patiently waited for […]

The Ripple Effect

I’ve been fascinated with water conservation since before I could see over the bathroom sink. While my mother was brushing her teeth, if the tap was still running, I’d stand on my tiptoes and twist the faucet shut. “Wasteful,” I‘d say. She’d look at me with a foamy half-smile and spit into the basin. Or […]

Transplant

I recently made a list of things I have done in the past ten months and seventeen days. Exactly ten months and seventeen days ago, I woke up in my apartment in Indianapolis to a loud thunderstorm and with a killer flu. Coincidentally, this was the day that I was supposed to move to Los […]

Word Vomit: My Sacrifice to the Gods

Where is the most public place you’ve puked? With this year’s especially infectious flu season, I’ve found that sharing war stories of vomit (and some might say valor) can be especially inspirational. Physically and verbally, illness is purged from the system. From hurling and humiliation, we find humor in our humanity. Or, at the very […]

Cartographer

I am in constant pursuit of an escape route. Since my father’s passing in 2012, I have moved a total of seven times. Arizona to California, up to Idaho and back down to Phoenix again. My living map is a zig-zag of dots and scattered lines spanning the western US. This February, I relocated my […]

On Writing, Fathers and Sons

I began to write after Pipo, my father, passed away. I was a month shy of eight years old. I had learned to read and write only a couple of years before. At first I’d scribble notes on loose pieces of paper like He’s on a business trip, he’ll be back, or He’s still around, […]

Progress?

Alexa. A-L-E-X-A. Three syllables, five letters, soft vowel sounds. Depending upon which baby-name website you look at, it is either the 51st most common name for newborn girls this year or the 111th. It’s popular. And why shouldn’t it be? Alexa has a nice ring to it. At least, I thought so—until she moved into […]

DARPP-32, I Forgive You

I equate dogs with death. My father brought the family dog home from his firehouse in the South Bronx. The dog was lonely, tired, and hungry, abandoned in one of the worst neighborhoods in the universe, one rampant with crime, drugs, homelessness, and endless flames. I wish I knew how the dog befriended my father […]

Facing the Wave

The plan was to go back to Montecito—where, a few days after the Thomas Fire had reached containment, waist-deep mudslides triggered by heavy rain decimated the community. The fire had burned through approximately 281,893 acres, across the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, destroyed 1,063 structures, and forced over 104,607 residents to evacuate their homes and […]

Conversations Needed Between Mother and Daughter

Growing up no one ever talked to me about the essential knowledge a young girl needs to know. There were no conversations about boys, what I wanted to do with my life or how I wanted to live my life. No one talked about marriage being an essential part having a family, job choices, menstruation, […]

Ideation

I used to think of death as one of my closest friends when I was young. Not that many people in my life had died.. Now death was just my imaginary playmate. Mental illness ran in my family like a creek. The waters were dirty and filled with parasites, but you could sit by the […]

Groundhog Daying Our Lives with Each Memoir Draft

There is a certain luxury enjoyed by us memoirists. We get to live the rough first draft of an experience and we get to right it by writing it into polished narratives of growth. Pain can be transformed into a source of inspiration. Any mistake can be chalked up to a learning experience and newfound […]

Sitting Under the Redwoods

Did I create the monster lovingly known as my son? Or is this a case of nature vs. nurture? Should I smash my iPhone into the side of the building? Or just turn it off? These are some of the questions swirling in my mind as I sit under towering California redwoods, in a Zen-like […]

How Baseball Saved My Life

My family and I arrived in San Francisco in 1969, a couple of years after the Summer of Love, seven years after the San Francisco Giants’ last World Series appearance. A trail of incense and marijuana still wafted through the City. I was about to turn twelve, and it is that scent that I most […]

Those Who Have and Those Who Don’t

Money flows in the North Shore of Long Island. It flows through the shops along the Miracle Mile. Hermes, Gucci, Prada, Dior. You can see money here, in the tight, trim bodies of Soul Cyclers, in the faces surgically sculpted to stave off time. You can hear it too—in the bright cha-ching of the crisp, […]

Is This My Essay?

The first seminar of my recent MFA Residency at Antioch University Los Angeles—a creative nonfiction exploration called “Stating Your Case”—dazzled and baffled me. I raised my hand to confess I am a newbie; a blind baby bird with its soft-bone beak clapping open and shut. “How do you know what to write about?” I asked. […]

We F**king Exist: Seven Writers on Seven Words

(do not erase) based-                                                          (on the) -evidence transgender                          (adults)            (children) (are)          […]

Phantom

The radiology department lies deep in a basement of the Chao Cancer Center in Orange County. A nurse told me to arrive two hours early for my CAT Scan, so that I would have time to drink a liter of contrast, one cupful at a time. Once imbibed, the liquid would make my insides vivid […]

Normal Behavior

I had forgotten how completely ubiquitous sexual harassment was in my youth. So common place on the streets and transport systems in a city like New York that young girls and women took it in their stride, assuming the abuse to be the price paid for a sense of autonomy, for the freedom of movement. […]

Musings of the Season

It’s that time again. We’re coming up on the holidays. Leaves have fallen, blanketing the lawn in warm shades of yellow and red; Christmas lights are aglow. Tumultuous 2017 is edging toward its close, the promise of another year on the horizon. Joy to the World! For some reason, I’m just not feeling it. It’s […]

Earth Is a Body Who Knows Us

“…frescoes translating violence into patterns so powerful and pure we continually fail to ask are they true for us.” ~Adrienne Rich, “The Images” This essay has been challenging because I’m primarily a poet and visual artist, not used to writing in the first person. It is so much easier and infinitely more satisfying to transcend […]

What I Learned When Maria Came to Visit

“Dad, the hurricane sent Puerto Rico back to the stone age,” was how my son put it after living through the wrath of Hurricane Maria, and witnessing the extent of the devastation and destruction of the island first hand. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods are Nature’s reset buttons. Its way to reclaim its space, to rid […]

From Writer to Writer/Activist

Those two punctured windows of the Mandalay Bay Hotel from the previous night’s news haunted me. I felt this same way after 9/11. I had never before imagined these particular acts of evil—a killer firing on a crowd from up high, or people using planes as weapons. In this world, there are things you can […]

Psychic Servitude

It was a routine morning in the spring of my senior year at Vestal High School, 1997. I woke to the unfailing alarm of my father’s whisper-shout: “Hey bud, time to rise and shine. Up and at ‘em!” (My groggy inner retort: I guess I’ll rise, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna fucking shine.) I […]

Fighting Paralysis

Paralysis can be an education: it makes you infinitely more aware of the possible. Possibilities were all I could think about recently in urgent care when I sat on a bed waiting for a doctor to tell me why I could not move the right side of my face and was losing the ability to […]

Sanctifying Israel

I got pregnant at twenty-one. It happened while I was still an undergrad, directly after a Bible study meeting at the campus ministry. And I do mean right after—maybe within the hour. The father and I had just prayed about fornication at the meeting. I think we were trying to stop, or considering trying to […]

Hybrid in a Hurricane

It’s an early October morning in West Seattle and storming off and on. The trees are half a dozen shades of red and orange and last night’s downpour has left the pavement soaked. The neighborhood I’m walking through is chock-full of small-town peculiarities like a shed with a bold banner that reads, “Caddyshack,” an actual […]

A Picture Is Worth

As a young child, I stuttered. “Mom, wha-wha-wha-what time is it?” Many times she would answer, but sometimes she would interrupt me mid-sentence to say, “Marlenia! You need to stop and breathe before you talk.” If I had been part of a household in which we each patiently and politely spoke after someone placed a […]

Her Boldest Self

Last month, I visited my eighty-six year old mother, Geraldine, in New Jersey where she lives in a building for seniors. On the third morning, I woke to find that she had been up all night struggling to breathe. To my exasperation, she had waited out the terrifying night sitting up in a reclining chair […]