Saturday, May 28, 2005

chicago restaurant reviews

while i was in chicago for the national restaurant tradeshow, i had the opportunity to go to some fine restaurants and so there are a few restaurant reviews that i have decided to post on my blog, in case you ever find yourself in chicago, wondering what you should or shouldn't eat. bon appetit.

Friday, May 27, 2005

help, i've lost my friend

so my friend chet disappeared a week ago last monday.

disappeared as in didn't show up at our usual spot to carpool into the city. on my fourth call (no one can say i am not persistent) he answered, hung over from a long night, the night before. needless to say he didn't make it in to work that day. but the next morning he wasn't at our meeting spot again- all highly irregular. when i tried calling, it went straight to vm, so i left a message saying i'd see him at work.

and yet, as i was driving on the 101 i had a sinking feeling he was either going to quit or be fired. so it didn't come as a complete shock when i found out he had left a vm saying he quit with his boss. what did surprise me and kind of baffles me even today is his refusal to take my calls. i think i must have called around 8 times that day and if it didn't go straight into vm, then i knew he was screening.

before you think i'm psycho because of calling that much you have to understand the nature of our relationship. he is like a brother to me and i am like a sister to him. we'd planned all these things- i'm supposed to go to his cousin's wedding with him in december; he's supposed to help me move and paint my new bedroom; we were supposed to play badminton this summer, go salsa dancing, cook once i move. if you understand hindu culture and the festival called raksha bandan, we had talked about doing it with each other. in the celebration a brother will tie a band around his sibling's wrist as a pledge that he will watch out for her/take care of her. the sister ties the band around her brother's wrist and also gives him money as her pledge that she will take care of him. he has seen me in unsavory moments and in good ones- he gets me better than most anyone else.

and he has severed me from his life. i'm kind of numb by all of it, yet devastated, yet insanely pissed off that he would think whatever he's going through is too big, too bad or too gross to allow me to walk with him through it(even though we've walked through some pretty grim stuff in the past year together). he's making that choice. and so i would implore you if you are a praying person to pray for chet right now. he's in bad straits- bad enough that he broke his lease and moved home to his parent's house two days after he quit. join me as i pray for him because it's as if he's a cologne lingering in the air that follows me wherever i go- everything reminds me of him but i can't let the smell overwhelm my life, even if i am aware of its existence. this is like a break-up of a boyfriend but 10 times worse. friendships are rare jewels, but like diamonds, these kind of sharp edges cut and will definitely leave their mark. all in all i miss him.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

the sith within us all

so i applaud george lucas. i want to write him a thank you note after having seen "revenge of the sith" where he ties up all the loose ends and makes anakin so human, darth vader, a tortured soul that you want to pity but can't help liking because of his dislikability. we went and saw it last night at 12:20 a.m. and then i got on a plane to come out to chicago, where i am writing this through heavy eyelids.

redemption. it's such a root element found in so much more than we could ever imagine in life. anakin made choices that weren't always the right ones, even though his heart was in the right place sometimes as those decisions were being made. i have been considering throughout the whole of today his plight. looking back at episode 2, we begin to see that his desire to stop human suffering causes great pain and further suffering, even as he kills all the tuscan raiders. he couldn't stop his mother from dying and that inability to exercise a God-like function of lengthening her life frustrated him. but how is that so different from adam and eve eating from the tree of good and evil? granted eve wasn't trying to save adam from dying, but in eating fruit of the tree of good and evil, they were trying to become as gods. maybe that's why it's hard to watch anakin's demise- because it reminds me of my own path i had been heading down, years ago and reminds me that there are other paths, other choices that can be made. which brings me to my second point.

listening and wisdom. sometimes when we are at a crossroad, where the choice we make will determine which direction our life will take, it may seem like we only have one choice. but this is where it's important that you are conscientious and thoughtful about who you engage for perspective/advice. because in asking their opinion you bestow power upon that person and their words become electrified. there really is something to the phrase about bad company corrupting good character. if the voice of truth in your life is all a lie, you will not be able to perceive truth from falsehood; reality from fantasy/make-believe.

but i think all of us have some anakin in us. the parts that struggle between doing what is right and what is wrong. pride. anger. vengeance (in smaller degrees than that of killing all the tuscan raiders). and yet watching padme throughout this movie provides an interesting twist, especially going back to the last point above.

what i think triggers for so many americans a sense of ownership and enthusiasm unmatched in the US for any other movie except star wars is that this is our epic. most epics take place in the past (troy/odyssey, LOTR, ramayana, to name a few); but for us who were growing up in the 70's this is our story and it is as woven into the texture of our lives as anything tangible.

so once you've seen the movie PLEASE POST A COMMENT here and i would love to dialogue more about it. i feel like i will be processing this movie for at least a week or until i see it again (post-episode viewings of 4,5,6).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

music baton

concert prosthetics

did i tell you i'm developing a patent? or perhaps i should say i would like to develop one. it would be called "concert prosthetics" which i would market to short people this world over to smashing success. it would involve an attachment that would elongate the legs so that when standing in a concert crowd anybody could be six feet tall. just imagine the possibilities!

we went and saw one of my favorite bands and artists last night at slim's. i kind of hoisted myself in front of my group of friends so at my 5'2 stature, i could still see the performers through the bevy of tall people in my path. a woman with an angular purse pointed towards my chest kept dancing into me; i think there was too much beer in her system for her to register that i was there. so instead of getting mad and wanting to tell her off, i decided to envision what her life was like outside of the concert setting and settled on the fact that she is a regimented accountant who always wears buns in her hair except when she's at a cope concert, where she then can let her hair down and shake her body to the groove. of course her accountant boyfriend looked on at times, not knowing what to make of her uninhibitedness...

the opener, david ryan harris is not to be missed. he is an all-around great performer with an amazing vocal range and these cool looping capabilities where through a pedal and a few initial guitar recordings, he sounds like he is being backed up full band.

citizen cope came on next. he still looks like a cat, which at times would produce a giggle out of me. the first song was a poor choice as a starter and we thought it might be a sign of things to come, but NO, HE WAS ON FIRE! the audience swayed and bobbed their heads along with the beat. i particularly liked how he was so surprised that the audience knew the lyrics to his songs, that he raised his eyebrows, smiled and said, "i like that." later on because the audience was so loud with the lyrics for "pablo picasso" he kind of let us take it away as he stepped away from the mic, kept playing guitar and just watched us, slightly bemused and slightly grinning a beatific smile. but we were glad when he decided to keep singing the song.

his encore included four songs, one of which was marley's "is this love". he gave it a really nice cope groove.

Monday, May 16, 2005

50 lb. of ground beef and art therapy: a conflict

all day friday and all day saturday i spent my time in disaster relief training sessions.

the options from which to choose were: water purification, emergency childcare, mass feeding, chainsaw, clean up and recovery, chaplaincy, and communication. the trainers' communication was less than clear because i thought that i could take a class on whatever i wanted to acquire more knowledge, but later found out that what we took as a class would be the only thing we were certified in.

this is the only way to explain my presence in the emergency childcare session. i was wooed in by the talk of discussing "art therapy" as a means for children disseminating how they feel about what has happened during a disaster. but within the four hour block of time, we spent probably only 10 minutes on it... i think kids are great in that they are just little people, but i've never been one to gravitate toward them like other women with that mothering homing device in them- kind of like a GPS system, i guess. so the rest of it was stifling and droll. i even made a comment to the instructor (for which i later apologized repeatedly and profusely) that i should have gone to the mass feeding session.

so the next morning, i petitioned my way into the mass feeding unit. it helped that i had been certified with this organization three years ago and had worked in mass feeding with this organization through the salvation army at ground zero, the december after 9/11 happened. i met this really cool girl named lacy while we both complained about hating having nothing to do. so she and i sought out all the jobs from that point forward that would be needed. and that's how we ended up cooking 50 lb. of ground beef for spaghetti sauce. later we ended up helping make a basic peach cobbler- four trays of it.

then we served food to the student body of my former grad school alma mater. and i later snuck into water purification where they had a machine that purifies 3000 gallons of water a day. the hose on this machine can be stuck into a cesspool and make it 99.9% clean... amazing what technology can do, eh?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

i am

i am grumpy if i've only had seven hours of sleep, when i should have had eight
i am a user of unsavory words in german- even though i know the meaning doesn't change
i am far too easily swayed by sugar even when i can hear my body protest
i am not reckless behind the wheel, just having bad car-ma this year or so i tell myself
i am always at war with keeping my desk orderly, though it often wins
i am intense and focused, when i should sometimes let things just happen
i am not rash in life, rather risky and exercising carpe diem in a dead poets way
i am a lover of live music where i can dance along and tap my leg
i am too direct and alienate people when at times i should be more sensitive
i am in need of tidying people's plates & silverware when they have finished eating
i am far too self-interested; my inner monologue should worm its way outside of self
i am a control freak if i deem incapable, when i should just be chill
i am trusting of few people, when some of my closest friends trust everyone they meet
i am a clotheshorse/ lover of color, though at times i should curb my enthusiasm
i am quiet when contemplating/dissecting things, though it's often misperceived
i am a liar, but mostly to myself
i am a poet, chanteuse, friend, boss, when at times i wish i could just be az
i am part mrs. bennett when i'd rather be totally lizzie
i am a closet romantic who would rather be known as the cynic seeing as it's safer
i am aware of numerous shortcomings even when fully aware of great strengths
i am justly accused yet mercifully forgiven
i am either late or early, but rarely on time
i am a bad chooser when rushed, though i would rather be wise always
i am attempting to live a devoted life amid drama, changes & airplane connections
i am a fan of silence and noise in balanced doses
i am sometimes right & stubborn as heck when other people can't recognize it
i am sometimes so sure the glass is half full, when i discover it's half empty
i am my own worst critic even as i extend more grace to those around me

i am, in spite of myself, loved by i am

just as i am

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

do you ever feel combustible?

i do, when i get excited about something that is. i call this alter ego "jojo the dancing clown." i don't think any of us knows why. but there's something about things occurring that could be considered coincidences or bizarre great acts of connection. and they just get me plain excited. but in these moments, i have to tell myself shanti, peace, it will work out as it ought. and these are my thoughts for you tonight. that and the fresh, clean cotton-y smell of newly washed laundry wafting out of a just opened dryer. peace to you.

Monday, May 09, 2005

a simple truth

i met a wise man over the weekend. he is what many would call a holy man. a real holy man! who would have thought they existed. and what made him holy was his utter awareness of his humanity and the subsequent deep cultivation of a life of devotion. one thing he said this weekend is playing over and over again in my head, like a tape and i would like to share it with you. amazing how the deepest truths can appear so simple, so neatly packaged with tight corners.

"God's duty to me is to take care of me. My duty to God is to serve Him. Finish."

think about all the latent truth in that. then take your brokenness, your depression, your joys, talents, your ability to cook a mean curry or even all the baggage you felt like you had to carry around for years that now feels like it is restricting your circulation. all of it. it's too heavy, so drop it at His feet. and take up that yoke that we are assured is light, to begin to recover the life that is said to be abundant.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

of dignity and recycling cans

i sat across from my friend we'll call mack, at the family dinner tonight. he invited me to sit with him and i took my seat just as he and some of his fellow homeless friends were discussing prime spots to get recyclable objects for money, in the city. i now know that going to a bar's dumpster at the end of the night is the hit.

he segued at one point telling me how he had decided to wait outside the big safeway on castro, while his friend went outside to purchase something, to smoke a cigarette. a guy, with eyes downcast, tried to hand mack a $10 spot. mack kind of looked at the money and said, "why are you trying to give that to me? i don't need it."

at this part in the story mack's two friends pipe in, saying that for some reason people always try to hand them cash too and can't figure out why. now, i'm surveying these guys and they visually are not your typical hard core image of the homeless. the grime and dirt on them is only two layers deep as opposed to fifteen, and there is no stench emanating from them at all. so it kind of made me wonder also.

"why didn't you take the money?"

mack and his friend pedro looked at me and with a sober expression respond that it's because of pride. to which i ask, "what's the difference then between dignity and pride? because what you're saying seems to align more with dignity." mack explains that he sees these two descriptors as two sides of the same coin- one as the emotion and the other as the result. we then ensued discussing my stance on not giving money to the homeless, but instead giving food. mack agreed and told me when he used to make a lot of serious cash on the streets selling drugs, he would rather buy a homeless person a $15 meal than give them the 15 because it would probably end up being spent to be injected into an arm or snorted up a nostril.

but it also makes me think about me and you and what mack, my homeless friend cum sage can teach us. here he is HOMELESS, but knowing when he has enough. and being sated with that.

who out of us, if offered free money, would turn it down?

and yet i see so much of jesus stamp on mack- a little matthew 6 that speaks of sparrows and lilies of the valley; and an imprint of imago dei of the dignity of knowing when enough is enough.

and i think also of his response "i don't need that." i would hope we inside-dwellers could realize that often what the homeless need is not a hand out of cash or even sometimes an apple. instead we'd see that sometimes they need some ears willing to open up and drink in their stories, other times they need eyes to see them- not peer through them like they're invisible and maybe sometimes it's dedicating some time to realize that loving our neighbor means spending time with our neighbor in his/her turf and learning how he/she needs to be loved to receive it as such.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

to lead or not to lead

would have been shakespeare's question if he was a dancer.

tuesday nights i have been going to a salsa class with my friend olga, in the mission. it's pretty fun and helping me accomplish one of my goals (see previous blog on "ten goals so far this year").

olga and i discussed after class last week the travails of whether or not a woman should help the guy out on the dancefloor if he is having problems leading. see, the guy is the leader, but that doesn't mean that he can always hear the rhythm or remember the steps. we both are pretty good at salsa dancing in our class and some of the guys need to practice more to get better at hearing/feeling the beat and aligning their feet with it. we had endeavored to follow them tonight, even if the steps they danced were not the right ones. we would follow anyway.

right. that worked for about three partners who were beginners. on the fourth- this one guy we'll call rob, i got fed up and as he tried to turn me too soon, i didn't budge and showed him what the step should look like and asked if we could practice it again, which we did and by the fourth attempt, he understood that i needed to be on my right foot, so my left foot could step forward and pivot into a turn. meanwhile, he had eaten some form of fish and was breathing large gusts of air into my face. hot air. i tried my best to be patient and kind and not pass out from the bad hot breath, focusing all of my energy on the point where his collar makes a v.

here's the thing- and i am going to spout off a little bit more than usual here- in the end the guys and i all want to be better dancers. probably for most of them so they can have the confidence to ask a woman to dance at a club and dance with finesse and grace. i am NOT helping them achieve this if i am silent and let them step on my feet. but that does not give me license to lose patience or be rude or become the leader. they still are the men and in dancing, men lead. but sometimes they forget this and start watching my feet to see what i'll do next. one guy even asked, "what's next?" to which i responded "whatever you want." so on the one hand, i want to help them by pointing out which foot i need to be on for them to turn me so i won't trip and hurt myself. but on the other hand, i don't want them to look to me for direction on how to execute the entire routine.

to lead or not to lead... i have been spoiled because my dad is one of the best dancers in the world and he is the one who taught me how to dance latin and ballroom dances. he is a great leader, and i always know what he wants to do next on the dance floor because he communicates it very clearly, using his hands, body movements and the occasional (in his spanish accented voice) "annelies!" i am not versed at tango, but i can follow him okay because he is a good leader.

a few weeks ago, i danced with a salsa dance instructor who is a new friend of mine. before we stepped out onto the dancefloor, i made the admission that i sometimes have a problem with trying to lead, like it was a form of disease. to which he responded, "that's because you have had to since you have probably danced with men who are not good at leading."

i can't begin to tell how i felt an amazing amount of freedom in his simple statement. it's not that i want to lead on the dance floor, but i want to be a dancer of integrity and not let my steps get all messy and muddy just because my partner's are. i'm still figuring this out because i think this has larger implications than just the dancefloor. i'm wrestling with this internally. i will say though, that tonight when i decided "to hell with it," i was going to dance the steps we'd been taught even if the guy screwed them up, i could hear the beat even more clearly and sink my hips down into it, a smile breaking out on my face. and i think that counts for something.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

construction: a face

did you know we need each other to survive?

have you thought about that recently- in a thomas merton "no man is an island" sort of way? see, you are the mouth and maybe i'm the nose and my friend olga is the eyes and all together we make a face. and in this kind of silly illustration comes a big truth:

we can face almost anything in life if we know we are not facing it alone.

and this is the beautiful thing about the church- we are the church and to us come the broken and the weary. and through us comes the love of God, so much bigger than our own, able to see a need before it is present and able to provide a resource before we know one is needed. sometimes, we are the broken and the weary, and God is not too small to meet us in the place we're at, even if it's some murky, dingy joint. i can sometimes envision Him when i'm in those foul moments and places, copping a squat next to me and just holding me. He has given you me, and me, He has given you. that's something for which to be thankful. in the end, i'm glad you and i are links in the same fence.