Not My Immigration Story

In an another effort to distract mid-term voters from the issues truly affecting the American public, the Trump Administration has placed the wedge issue of immigration front and center. I’d like to add a story to the those that have personalized this issue. I can’t call it my story because in truth, I was just a witness to it. In reflection, that’s something I am ashamed of. Not that I didn’t try. But that I wasn’t successful. That I didn’t persevere.

For clarification, I am white and the third generation of my family to be born in the United States, California specifically. I have been told the harrowing story of my great-grandfather emigrating from Poland at the age of 12. I have been to Ellis Island and proudly found his name. He was educated and knew enough English to communicate his actual last name and have it spelled correctly as he began his life as an American. Penniless and a child, he overcame great challenges to achieve the American Dream. His progeny continue to benefit.

In stark contrast to Pop’s childhood, my Sunday evenings were ritualized by pizza at our favorite Italian restaurant and picking up our live-in housekeeper at the Winchell’s down on the boulevard. One night, as we left dinner and headed to collect her, my mother prepped my brother and I. Not only are we picking up the housekeeper, but she will have her son with her. He is 10 years old (in between my younger brother and I). Up until this point, he has been living in El Salvador with his grandmother, believing her to be his mother. He was brought here by “coyotes”. He doesn’t speak English.

Door opens, cabin lights come on, mother and son get in the car. That’s it.

Over the next 8 years, the boy lived in a room in my house with his mother 5 days a week. The room was large, but off the garage. We walked through that room to enter the main house. We never knocked from the outside before entering. Our washing machine and dryer were in the room and it also functioned as our family’s makeshift office.

I remember the excitement of setting up our new Apple IIe in that room. I spent hours on that computer. In their personal space. I did ask him a few times if he wanted to try it. Instinctively he’d look at his mother. She’d sternly tell him no with her eyes. Eventually I stopped asking.

The bathroom he and his mother used was actually our powder room. The only shower available for their use was in the ensuite bathroom of my room. Looking back I wonder when he had time to sneak in a shower. It was never while I was home.

Summer breaks seem particularly painful in retrospect. My brother and I spent a lot of time in front of the tv and swimming in our backyard. I definitely asked him if he wanted to watch something with us or cool off in the pool. I remember questioning him directly, but those eyes answering us both back. And so he sat inside.

The boy was shipped off to the local public schools deemed a disservice to my brother’s and my intellect. At some point during high school, the boy was having trouble with some kids at school. To hear my parents tell the story, he was going to join a gang and my father credits himself with scaring him into staying on the straight and narrow. In piecing together the spotty details in my memory bank, I think the boy was being bullied because he was smart and a good student.

My brother and I went to university out of state. The boy went to a state school locally. I have no idea if he continued to live in the room with his mother.

What must he have been thinking all those years? Why did it never occur to me to ask? He never seemed bitter or jealous. We had cordial exchanges, but never conversations. A boy, essentially my age, lived in my home and I had no meaningful relationship to him. We both accepted the caste parameters set by the adults around us. I am ashamed that the situation didn’t bother me at the time, that I didn’t question the unspoken rules and that I didn’t stick up for what should have been his equal rights and access to kid stuff entertainment available in the house he was living. It certainly couldn’t have felt like a home to him.  

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened to the boy. During the Reagan Administration my mother helped the housekeeper and the boy become citizens. I now think about the boy being enrolled in school, an “illegal” and probably without a legitimate birth certificate. But that supposedly substandard public education, followed by graduation from state school led to a incredibly successful career at a major accounting firm. I suspect he’s at the partner level.

The boy (now a man) and I are Facebook friends. But there is still no discussion. Without that modern convenience, I would have no tether.

A boy lived in my house. He had an amazing escape from a war torn country. He lived a life on the outside of privilege. I know nothing of it.

I Invented Diet Coke

I invented Diet Coke. No really, I did.

I was with my soon-to-be stepdad, then-to-be adoptive father, but that’s a story for another day. It was the summer of 1980 and I was 8 years old. He was walking me up to the grill that bordered the pool at our swim and tennis club. The ordering window was high up and in deference to the pixie sized clientele, 3 large, boxed shaped steps covered in cheap carpet stood square in front of the opening. I’d climb on up and almost always order the same thing; a cheeseburger, a Cactus Cooler and for dessert, a half of a cantaloupe filled with lemonade.

I know you have many questions about this order, namely why would an 8 year old consider fruit a dessert. I can only tell you that I was the victim of a persistent and effective brain washing campaign. My husband jokes that given the choice between a brussel sprout and a piece of candy, I would choose the brussel sprout. He’s right. As for the lemonade in the middle, I don’t know what culinary genius introduced me to that palate pleaser, but I highly recommend you try it.

I know you want to hear about Diet Coke but a few more thoughts are flooding back to me. Namely, a cheeseburger outside on a hot day kinda sucks. I remember opening the foil and a wave of steam rising up and enveloping my warm, slightly sunburned face, sticky with layers of sunscreen mixed with chlorine and other delectable molecules contracted from a public pool.  Starving, I would quickly take a bite and the scalding grease would drip down my chin. The ketchup on the burger would have had just enough time to heat up and burn my tongue. I’d take a swig of the Cactus Cooler, perhaps the finest soda in the land, but it wasn’t quite cold enough and the carbon dioxide bubbles would expand in my throat and get stuck above the blob of meat and cheese and bun. And yet, if given the choice for my Last Meal, this would be in high consideration.

Back to my invention…

We walked in silence from the chaise lounges to the grill. I was considering my order. Maybe I’d mix it up a bit. Sometimes I’d substitute a scoop of chicken salad with 1000 Island dressing on the side. The kind that’s so thick with corn syrup and pickle chunks that it has to be poured from an oversized syrup dispenser and clipped off by the sliding metal cover snapping back into place. And for the drink? No distraction there but I did have a fleeting thought that escaped my lips.

“Hey, how come there’s Diet Pepsi, but there’s no Diet Coke?” His retort came sharply, “what do you think Tab is, Stupid?”

Two years later, Diet Coke hit the market. Just the right amount of time for some zealous young Coca-Cola exec to have overheard my idea, pitch it, formulate it through R&D and bring it to market. “Just for the taste of it.” You know, because we already have Tab.

I’ve been back to the club in recent years and the carpeted steps are gone. Some dumbass kid probably fell and the club was sued. Now that’s stupid.

Tinkle Sprinkle Wrinkle

I never use a toilet seat cover in a public restroom. Hear me out.

They are impossible to straighten and place on the seat without being sucked into the bowl. This design defect is compounded by the self flushing toilets that fail to heat-sense my freezing bare ass and therefore flush immediately. And they don’t do a goddamn thing to protect you from the filth partying on the seat.

Fortunately, I am a champion squatter. I have scientifically determined the exact depth I have to maintain in order to hit the target but avoid contracting jumping potty bugs. At times, a few drops may drift off course, depending on A/C draft. But I am willing to accept the consequences of my miscalculation and wipe the errant dribbles away for the next user.

However, I do have a dilemma. What do I do about the last customer who lacks the benefit of my sophisticated targeting system AND is a slob that doesn’t clean up after herself?

If I exit the stall and it is immediately reoccupied, the new tenant will think it was me. I realize I don’t know this person and certainly I am stealthy enough to wash my hands quickly and disappear into the crowd. But I fear a confrontation and public shaming. (Obviously unless I am the perpetrator of said shaming.)

So it becomes a battle between my OCD and my ego. Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear my ego wins out. I am forced to wipe away the urine of a complete stranger so that, you, the potential next guest, may at least have the perception of a clean seat.

Are you cringing? Yeah, me too. EVERYTIME.

Root, Root, Root For The…Wait, How Much?

I do love baseball and I consider myself a Dodger fan but it’s become increasingly difficult to root, root, root for the home team. Yes, the World Series was exciting last year and there were moments that I thought we’d pull it out. It was the most emotionally fulfilled I had felt by the boys in blue in a long time. But truth be told, I’ve felt abandoned since Time Warner refused to let Direct TV air the games. Not allowing us access to Vin Scully’s last seasons was unconscionable.

Peanuts, Get Your Peanuts

At some point I must have signed up to receive emails from the Dodgers. As I cleaned out my Inbox this evening, I was drawn to an offer for tickets this weekend. Granted we are in 2nd to last place in the NL West playing the last place team in the division this Memorial Day Weekend, but what the hell. I thought a Sunday lunch of Dodger Dogs, beer and the crummy substitution for what used to be the delectable Carnation Chocolate Malt sounded delicious. The biggest boy is working, the middle guy is off to Magic Mountain, so a Sunday at the ballpark for the daddy, little guy and me sounded peaceful, nostalgic and comforting.

How Much?

[Insert sound of screeching brakes here]. $1,550. For three tickets. To watch a shitty team play a shittier team.

Now I realize that I left the little box that says “best tickets available” checked but I am now offended and praying for a sink hole to open up under Chavez Ravine. Maybe you could have sold those rights to Direct TV even if it was less than your original asking price to offset costs. These prices are usury! I could almost understand it if you were recouping the cost of a new state of the art stadium but Dodger Stadium is the third oldest stadium in MLB (IMHO, it’s perfect). So how about cutting us a deal? How about making family fun family affordable?

Access Denied

Vin Scully called the very last NBC Game of the Week that aired October 9, 1989. At the close of the broadcast he had this to say: “It’s a passing of a great American tradition. It is sad. I really and truly feel that. It will leave a vast window, to use a Washington word, where people will not get Major League Baseball and I think that’s a tragedy.”

Putting MLB out of reach of the masses is a tragedy. I think maybe I’m done. Too rich for my blood. I’m not Major League, I’m bush league and proud of it.

So, this is a former Dodger fan wishing you a pleasant good evening, wherever you are.

An All-Star Baseball Team For 6 Year Olds, WTF?

The permission slip came home about 3 weeks ago. Sign here if you’d like your son considered for the All Star Team. THE 6 YEAR OLD ALL STAR TEAM!

We declined to return the form for two reasons. First and most importantly, our son doesn’t love baseball. He complains about having to go to practice. At first I used to drag him because “you’ve made a commitment to a team”. I stopped forcing him to go when he reminded me I didn’t even ask him if he wanted to play, I just signed him up. Well played, Son.

The second reason we didn’t sign and return is because this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve played All-Star and Summer Ball. We’ve disrupted family plans, sweated our asses off in bumblefuck locales, and contended with heat stroke and repetitive injuries. And that was for a kid that LOVED the game. The kid that cried when he made his first All-Star Team (that league didn’t field a team until 10 years old) and we told him he couldn’t play because he had to go to Italy for a pre-planned family vacation. And I mean SOBBED. Because he had to go to ITALY.

Today I got a call from the little person’s coach. They’ve gotten lots of signups but not from kids that “should really be All-Stars”. The league “loves” our son. His words, not mine. Any chance he’ll play?

Poor Coach. There isn’t enough body armor in the world to protect him from the verbal onslaught that ensued. And I like this guy.

My points are as follows:

  1. Criteria for a “good” 6 year old is that he has the most basic of skills. He can throw to a target, catch a ball and make contact at bat. In reality, only about 15% of each roster has these skills. At this age, the divide between those that can and those that can’t is quite apparent. So yeah, it’s exciting as hell when something baseball-ish actually happens. Spoiler alert: those capabilities will even out over the next 2 years.
  2. It’s about to get hot. Africa hot. Small bodies are not well designed to regulate their core temperatures. Putting them in long double ply pants, suffocating polyester jerseys, oh and hats, out on a dusty field that radiates heat is probably not endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  3. They just played 3 months of baseball. That feels like a lifetime to a 6 year old. Extending the season is a recipe for burnout.
  4. It was mentioned that this is supposed to be a reward for the better players. Hey guys, that’s what the “game balls” were for. Let’s call it a season and move on to lounging by the pool.
  5. This is about parental bragging rights and nothing more.

The league offering the program and the parents participating are fueling our sports obsessed culture to the detriment of our children. I can find no redeeming quality to tacking on an All-Star tournament for this age group. Disagree with me? I’d love to hear you give me a good reason that isn’t really a cover for your ego.

There’s A Little Beverly Goldberg In All Of Us

We’re pretty loosey-goosey with curfews and rules for Riley. After all he’s 17½ years old and will be off to college in about a year. He’s proven himself trustworthy and for the most part, seems to be forthright about where he’s going, with whom and what debauchery ensues. My only request is that he check-in when he gets home so that I may avoid waking up in a panic at 3am to make sure he’s in bed.

So when he came into our room on Saturday night, I reflexively said hi, how was your night, I love you. He answered, “I’m sorry to wake you but I’m having an asthma attack and I can’t make it stop.”

I sprang up in full action mode, assessed how much medication he’d already taken, started the steam shower and grabbed the nebulizer. As we got him somewhat stabilized, Riley commented that he hadn’t had an attack like that in more than a decade. He was right. So much for growing out of it.

A wave of anxiety welled up in me. What if this happens while he’s away? I’ll have to send him with a nebulizer and medication. I told him I hope he has an awesome roommate that will stay up with him until he can breathe. If not, he’ll have to go to the hospital/urgent care/student health center. Whatever. Just please don’t take a chance.

And then Dave broke the tension, “I feel like we should put on a Blues Clues or something.” Indeed. How many nights had we been up with him at 4:30am distracting him with a VHS tape? Yes, our Blues Clues collection was on VHS.

I never upgraded the mask for our nebulizer. So our man-child sat upright in our bed with a fishy mask that barely covers his nose and mouth. Bittersweet to say the least.

Finally the steroid and albuterol fully nebulized. He was better with only a slight wheeze now. I asked him if he wanted to go back to sleep with us so I could, you know, monitor his breathing. HE SAID YES! I threw my arms around him and told him I’m terribly sorry he feels like he’s suffocating but this is the happiest night of my life!

So I slept with one ear open and listened for changes in his breathing. Around 6:30am he announced he was going back to his room. I don’t wish him any ill that would again require my comfort, but I did feel a pang as my baby left my bed, maybe for the last time. A parting gift from the universe.

Breathe.

The Only Babies That Should Be Allowed In The Senate Are The Ones We Voted For

I’m more than a little bugged at the media swooning over Tammy Duckworth bringing her 10-day-old infant to the Senate floor. And the self-congratulatory praise of her colleagues has me wanting to spit up. I think we should get a few things straight about this “historic” occasion.

Children do not belong in the workplace. Period. Nobody can get a fucking thing done with a baby around, whether it’s laundry or the Trans Pacific Partnership.

I actually think this sends a terrible message and sets back Family Leave progress. Those initial months are best spent bonding with a baby. Just because you’re wearing it, doesn’t mean you’re paying attention to it. Senator Duckworth is actually telegraphing to new mothers everywhere that you better get your ass back to work. It’s more important than your child.

And she’s being terribly unfair to herself and her body. She just spent 9 months growing another human. That depletes every ounce of energy and nutritional stores you’ve got. You are exhausted after delivery and then if she’s breastfeeding, the leeching doesn’t stop. If she delivered Caesarean, she’s recovering from major abdominal surgery. If she delivered vaginally, she’s gushing fluid and blood. “Hey Mitch, what time’s the vote?”

Going right back to work doesn’t prove she’s tough. It doesn’t make her one of the boys. It isn’t some altruistic overture to serve her constituents. It’s selfish and self-serving. A photo opportunity that demeans the enormity of the birthing and mothering experience.

The infant will be in good company, surrounded by crybabies and people shitting themselves. I’m sure they distribute Depends like Academy Award swag up on Capitol Hill.

On second thought, being a United States Senator is the perfect job for bringing your infant to work. You’re not expected to accomplish anything anyway.

*This post was magically completed despite having to wipe an ass mid paragraph, having to feign interest in a toy garbage truck stuffed with Legos and answering questions as to how I think garbage men smell at the end of their shift.

The Side of the LAPD Cruiser Does Not Say “To Serve and Protect Your Shitty Little Animal”

I live in a part of Los Angeles known affectionately as The Valley. Our neighborhoods line the 101 freeway and shot to national prominence as the poster child for 80’s culture with the exaggeration of a stereotypical valley girl through film originally titled, Valley Girl, and song, innovatively named, “Valley Girl”. Like, oh my god, have a unique thought and like picking on us, is like so lame.

The Valley grew in population and housing expansion in the 60’s and 70’s as many of my parent’s generation made a mass exodus from cold locales and city dwellers sought larger property for less money, less traffic and an increase of generally 15 degrees in temperature from “The Westside”.

It used to be a pretty nice place to live. Now all the vampires walkin’ through the valley move west down Ventura Boulevard.

Frankly, it’s a total shithole now. Like way worse than Haiti or El Salvador. I regularly drive past homeless encampments that rival Skid Row, see needles in my Trader Joe’s parking lot and read of car break-ins and robberies of my neighbors daily. But my house still costs a fortune.

Perhaps the only positive result of this decay is the banding together of neighborhoods. Through the use of apps like NextDoor and sharing Ring videos, people have become vigilant in alerting their neighbors of possible threats.

But because people suck, even the best of intentions go awry. Now I get pounded with the stupidest alerts. Look, I’m the first to make a person question the purpose of their existence if they have had the gall to walk through my closed gate, posted with do not enter unless I know you signs and ring my doorbell. But I also realize most of these people are trying to make a living, not casing the joint. But heaven forbid a person of color is soliciting door to door ‘round these parts, we’re going to get an alert. And people do not censor themselves. I repeatedly read the phrase, “doesn’t look like he ‘belongs’ around here”. It’s like my dad must be the group administrator.

Also fun are the limitless coyote alerts. Yes folks, you live in the basin of the Santa Monica Mountains and there are hungry and thirsty animals seeking sustenance. This is not newsworthy. They were here first. Keep Fiffy and Mr. Kitty inside if you are not intending to serve snacks during cocktail hour. Honestly, I favor the demonstration of natural selection. Does the world really need this many Bichon Frises?

However yesterday’s alert takes the cake, “Coyote spotted corner of Woodlake and Erwin just now about 10:30 PM Tue. Called 911 who are worthless…

The side of the LAPD cruiser does not say “To Serve and Protect Your Shitty Little Animal”. While I am disheartened at the deterioration of my community, I am also so hopeful that the tape of that 911 call will be released soon.

We’re Here to Pump You Up!

Due to the hard work and generosity of my dear husband and the relative absence of my school-aged children, I have the time to schedule my life a bit like a summer camp session. Under the guise of “improving” myself, I spend quite a lot of time in exercise classes and other sundry activities.

I could just go to the gym, jump on a treadmill and figure out some plan for lifting weights, but I need a little more structure than that. So I rely on the expertise and encouragement of instructors to keep motivated. It’s just that some of their catch phrases irk me a bit.

I’m not a huge fan of yoga although I am coming to appreciate it more and more. Part of my issue is that you are supposed to be undergoing something deep and meaningful. These are “experiences” I try to avoid.

Yoga instructors always have a sing-songy quality to their delivery that I find neither relaxing nor calming. I’m particularly put off by the phrase, “If that’s available to you today.” It’s supposed to make you feel better when you can’t wrap your arm through your leg, up around your neck and pick your own nose. How should I know if it’s available? Is there a particular season? Is there a list I have to get on? Was I supposed to sign up? Are you just being a dick and keeping it from me?

My spinning instructor has a couple of doozeys. My second to least favorite is, “find the mountain you need, not the mountain you want.” Let me be clear, mountains are not on my wish list. And I’m not going to have some magical emotional breakthrough because I turned the dial on the STATIONERY bike so far to the right that my quads snap. Did I mention the bike is standing still?

His other go-to is, ”good morning!” It’s not an initial greeting. He repeats it no less than 5 times during the hour. What he really means is, “Haha, that sequence fucked you up. You cannot moderate your competitiveness and you followed all my instructions. You’re in pain and dangerously close to myocardial infarction. “

It also triggers a Groundhog Day type loop if Groundhog Day had been a horror flick. I imagine his bleach bond pixie punim, accentuated by lash extensions, repeatedly rolling over next to me and waking me up from a deep sleep. I try to scream but my mouth is covered with duct tape.

My horse trainer likes to tell me, “ride the horse to the jump”. This instruction usually follows an instance where my horse has decided to be a total asshole and has refused said jump. Look, I’ve pointed a 1500 pound animal towards a fixed object. My expectations are that I’m going to hang on for dear life and that fucker’s gonna jump. If I’m still on his back, one point for me, I’m riding.

I’ve also been giving meditation a go. I’m not going to deny that there are some noticeable benefits, however sitting quietly while trying to quash the deluge of random thoughts I have at a rate of 10,000 per second is, well, let’s just call it an opportunity for growth. This one guru always begins with, “sit and know that you are sitting.” My ass is touching the ground, what the fuck else would I be doing? Maybe this meditation shit isn’t working.

Gun Control, Abortion and Freedom of Speech, Oh My!

WARNING:  PLEASE read this with your intellect, not your emotion. I have thoughts. Not answers. But I welcome, no I crave, thoughtful conversation.

POLICY STATEMENT:  I like shooting guns. I would own some if I didn’t have children in the house. I would feel safer. I believe there should be a limit to what guns can be privately owned and by whom.

I believe that a woman has the right to choose what happens to her own body. The legality of abortion was legislated almost 50 years ago. Limiting a woman’s access to care is unlawful.

 

Yesterday, a photo of 7,000 pairs of children’s shoes on the Capitol lawn went viral. The shoes represented the estimated number of children killed by any kind of gun violence since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. It was a chilling sight.

I was instantly reminded of the drive I used to make down I-35 from Austin to San Antonio where rows of white crosses were installed to represent aborted fetuses. It was a chilling sight.

Each of these displays is a constitutionally protected expression of political position, highly charged with emotion. When I saw the shoes, I was overcome with grief and fear and disgust that our children are at grave risk: at school, at places of worship, at concerts. When I came upon the crosses, I was enraged and repulsed at the judgmental display thrust in my face.

But is there a difference? I’m worried that maybe there isn’t. Yesterday’s realization was that someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum feels just what I do but in reverse.

Some news articles referred to the architects of the Capitol demonstration as activists. I had FB friends refer to it as “powerful art”. I doubt they would have been as complimentary of the white crosses. But wasn’t the intent of each of these displays to invoke emotion to spur legislative change? Doesn’t each expose a truth?

At the end of the day, the intended purpose of a gun is to kill. You can try to mitigate the end result by saying guns are sport. But when you go to a firing range, you are shooting at targets outlining bodies. If you go hunting, you are there to bring down an animal. I wish gun enthusiasts would acknowledge that truth and that the tools of the trade should be limited and controlled. All you have to do is go to any firing range in any city and you will know by instinct that there are people standing next to you with the capability and intent to leave you with a closet full of empty shoes. They should not own guns.

And here’s the bitter pill that those of you who share my views must swallow. The purpose of an abortion is to end a life. You can argue viability, but when you’ve heard a heart beating at 7 weeks, it’s tough to deny the statistical likelihood that this little fucker will be able to wake you up in the middle of the night 1000 times before his 7th birthday. I think the argument to protect Roe v Wade and to increase access to abortions would be strengthened if we acknowledge the truth that electing to bring a child into the world is not always emotionally, financially or physically the responsible choice. But it should be a choice.

These issues are certainly bigger than the bullion I’ve concentrated them into. I know this is all rife with slippery slope arguments and as I acknowledged above, I HAVE NO ANSWERS. I discuss these two issues together, not as any kind of moral equivalency, but only because of my personal emotional response to two demonstrations.

I look forward to your thoughts… I think.