Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Our summer menu

This is our summer menu.

The ice cold Michelada – made with Modelo EspecĂ­al and fresh lime – waits like a prize on the beige, tile counter top. There are velvet red cherries centered on the dark, wood table with two small crates of bright strawberries for siblings. There is chilled tequila. There is the ice rattle sound against glassware. Our mixed-up, cocktail conversations cross each other; thought-fingers tracing road map ideas. Really, they’re just words; whole sounds formed from partial sounds and stacked together to form syllable strings and, eventually, idle phrases.

This is our summer menu and, you see, we are going to get drunk today.

The Michelada goes down smooth and salty. The rich, candid Modelo flavor shines through, followed by the lip-pursing lime squeeze. Tongues lick salt from glasses, and a sea-tingle dances across our palates.


Outside, at the pool, where late afternoon sunlight beckons beyond the western seas.

We sit at a high table and puzzle over our drinks as the alcohol buzzes through our blood. All this feels so... Californian. And it is.

Who cares where conversations go in sunlight like this? Who worries about directions and decisions in a breeze like this? Who won’t drink from an ice cold glass like this?

Not me. Not us.

The sun rolls down its long arc and disappears. We shoot another thin pour of tequila and the night sets in. My friend builds one more Michelada in my glass...

This is our summer menu. I sip. And think.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Of nostalgia for a city

As a personal rule, I don’t believe in nostalgia.

It’s too imperfect an emotion. Not quite memory as elegy, nostalgia is too rooted in the heartsick blues and the random chance that is sorrow. A proper turn with nostalgia takes energy, time and years of practice – so I’ve avoided it most of my adult life.

I made an exception for San Diego though.

When I left San Diego, just two days before Christmas in 2008, the city had beaten me down. I was unemployed and broke. I’d spent weeks wandering the North Park streets – where I shared an apartment with a law student – wondering how I’d pay the rent.

Even the most beautiful cities can teach ugly lessons.

Lesson numero uno: Don’t quit your job shaking margaritas until you’ve found a job shaking martinis. That’s a good one for the kids to remember. I’d had a brief stint serving tables at a fine-dining place, but my disrespect for authority hadn’t made a great impression on the owner – and so, I was penniless.

That night, when I left the city, my best friend picked me up in his minivan. We drove down Kansas Street and made a right on University Avenue. Somehow, the city seemed more visible than usual. It was a little model of human life; the soft-glow light from the North Park sign illuminated drifters on their endless city patrol, whirring bicycle tires weaved through traffic and the accordion-like seven line bus stopped and started in front of us. I remember thinking that I wasn’t finished here, in San Diego. This is my city, I thought. I know these streets. I know the bus routes and the shortcuts. I know all the happy hour specials and I know where to park on holidays.

Eventually, we caught the 163 North to the 15, and we were gone.

Two questions pulled at me though. They were a subtle pulse on my mind’s edge, a heartbeat wrapped in seafoam: Did San Diego give up on you? Or did you give up on San Diego?


This May, I found myself hurtling like a bullet across Texas in my red ‘94 Volvo – headed for, you guessed it, San Diego.

I’d left Durham, N.C. with a journalism degree and I felt confident, free, even strong. But then a weight settled over me. I started to think about that winter in 2008... when I was a penniless, hopeless twenty-something banished from San Diego by circumstance and hard luck.

What had gone wrong? And how could I avoid the same result this time?

I don’t have a definite answer to either of those questions, but I think, somehow, the answers have to do with personal evolution. The kid I was, back then, seems so small and narrow in worldview compared to the man I am now. I’m no Renaissance man or anything, but I understand what it means to contribute to my community, my city and the world.  Back then, I thought it was all about what the city could provide for me. I acted like San Diego owed me a living, like I deserved happiness just because I’d chosen to live here. That’s poor logic, and it isn’t useful.

My own decisions led to my leaving San Diego in the first place. I quit a good job because I was stubborn. I was hired somewhere else – at a respected restaurant – and I disrespected the owner. He was making a contribution to his city, and I wasn’t. I didn’t deserve to be here, in this city. I deserved to be banished.

But somehow, through a weird combination of hard work and dumb luck, I made my way back through Texas, across New Mexico and Arizona, and eventually, back through East County... to San Diego.


Maybe nostalgia isn’t so bad.

It works like an emotional magnet that pulls our hearts back toward things we loved, and maybe, things we still love.

Nostalgia is our own personal compass needle “North.”

This week, I was headed back from Coronado with some old friends. We’d spent the afternoon on the beach. As we drove over the Coronado Bridge I looked out over the city. San Diego was an organism under the sun, a humming city of mohawks and ink-etched skin, of sleek, black BMWs and rumbling city buses, of hulking cruise ships and drab Navy destroyers, of fixed-gear beater bikes and gleaming weekend warrior road bikes, of cafe racers and roaring Harleys, of double-hopped IPAs and creative cocktails, of beach bums and bartenders, of farmer’s markets and urban gardens, of playful mutts chasing frisbees, of murmuring seas rolling back and forth across golden sands, of gawking tourists and irritated locals.

As we reached the bridge’s zenith I had a realization: San Diego was everything I’ve thought about during the past four years with that sharp, unwieldy human obligation that is nostalgia.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Farewell, Durham and all points South

Last day in Durham, N.C.

Is this how it ends, my sojourn South? A stone-empty shoebox apartment, except for the pile of suspicious gray duffle bags packed tight with ye olde literature, and empty Corona bottles littered across the kitchen counters? Yes, I think it is. This is the end, my friends.

I can’t say I’ll miss it much. But that, like most things, is not my fault.

I’ll be able to say from here on out that I was educated in the South -- The American South. Of course, that’s like saying I was taught to throw championship caliber darts in Poppy’s Dive Bar or run the pimp game from random “Cops” episodes.

Education by osmosis is a funny thing though. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what you’ve learned. That is, until you win a round of beers after throwing a bullseye or tell a detective to “get my lawyer, dammit.” Then you know you’ve been taught well -- and by professionals no less.

It’s been a good run. I’m a Southern California kid at heart though. I miss the dead weight of 100-degree heat, winter bikinis on the ladies, rice burners and the pungent smell of homegrown marijuana wafting on the ocean air.

Here, in the South, they’re still fighting a civil war, except this time, they’re fighting among themselves. The Conservatives are rolling deep in the State House -- packed in like sardines, they are. Their head honcho -- a china-junk hustling salesman named Art Pope -- used his gobs of American currency to buy up the place. His money served him well.

By the end of this legislative session Pope -- through his henchmen -- will have managed to slash the public university budget, disenfranchise nearly one million voters (mostly liberal), repeal the Racial Justice Act, destroy unemployment benefits and deny access to medical care for half a million poor people.

A productive few months if I don’t say so myself.

Pope’s arch-enemy, the Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP, is marching his people to the State House every Monday to protest. It’s a valiant effort, no doubt.

But it likely won’t stop what amounts to a violent undermining of racial progression in North Carolina. What’s interesting is that both sides purport to have “God” on their side. Like they say, everybody needs an imaginary friend when trapped in a foxhole. I guess that’s par for the South’s course.

Really, I can’t take it anymore. I prefer subtle Sundays and mainstream Mondays -- these protests, marches and harsh lawmakers set me on edge. It’s all I can do not to set fire to this place myself.

I’ll hit the road tomorrow, pushing down hard on my red Volvo’s throttle, hurtling like a fireball through Asheville and across the western N.C. border. I hope they don’t try to stop me. There’ll be a fight if they do.

They’ve got the imaginary man on their side, but I’ll have a death-grip on the steering wheel and the humble horsepower of a four-cylinder engine on mine.

I suspect they’ll let me out without resistance. But if they decide to battle it out I’m ready, and my Volvo is tuned like a moonshine smuggler’s car. If I had to gamble on it I’d take the Swedes over the South and their God(s) any day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"In The House" premiere was like... the real deal

Yesterday, in Durham, our documentary "In The House" had its city premiere. The film is about the Durham Divas 'n Dude Cheerleading Squad. They are ambassadors for the city of Durham and have won the North Carolina Senior Games a couple of times. The folks over at CAARE -- a local nonprofit -- were really gracious to provide space for the Divas to perform and for us to show the film.

The Durham Divas 'n Dude Cheerleading Squad.
We shot the film off and on for a period of eight months. We conducted extensive, in-depth interviews with three divas and the dude.

I'm happy with the final product -- though if I could shoot with the knowledge I have now it would have looked better. But that's why we did the project -- my advisor and I. We wanted to learn more about how to make an extensive documentary project.

Diva 'n Dude trophies. My advisor and I received one too.
Anyway, check out the full film below if you're interested. It's 19 minutes. The film is more about overcoming struggles than it is cheerleading.

Monday, May 6, 2013

30 arrested inside NC Legislative Building Monday night, 52 total arrested in last week

North Carolina General Assembly police officers led 30 protestors out of the State Legislative Building in Raleigh on Monday night, one after the other – all in handcuffs.

The protestors entered the Legislative Building on Jones Street and began singing “This Little Light of Mine” at 6:29 pm on the building’s second floor rotunda. Officers began making arrests at 6:40 pm.

A crowd of supporters cheered the act of civil disobedience as protestors were led away.

The Rev. Kojo Nantambu, Charlotte-Meklenburg County NAACP president, was arrested Monday night.
The 30 protesters – which included representatives from the N.C. NAACP, Raging Grannies, and a number of religious leaders and scholars – were arrested and charged with violating building rules, failing to disperse on command and second degree trespassing. All are misdemeanor charges, according to Jeff Weaver, General Assembly police chief.

The act of civil disobedience was a call to end what activists said is regressive legislative action in the General Assembly. Activists say the republican-controlled legislature is waging a full-on assault against the working class and minorities.

“It’s almost as if they pass all these regressive policies to hurt people,” said The Rev. William Barber, N.C. NAACP president.

The Rev. William Barber, N.C. NAACP president, walks across Jones Street toward the Legislative Building.
Barber and others cited the proposed voter ID law, the attempt to repeal the Racial Justice Act, blocking Medicaid expansion and cutting public education funding as examples of republican legislation intended to oppress North Carolinians.

The Rev. Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County branch of the NAACP, called the legislation divisive and evil.

“They’re not mad men,” Nantambu said. “They’re mean. They’re evil.”

Protestors stood in front of the Senate doors singing spirituals and Civil Rights Era songs.

Last Wednesday, five members of the N.C. Student Power Union were arrested outside the Legislative Building. On April 29, 17 activists were arrested after protesting in the second floor rotunda.

Bryan Perlmutter, an N.C. State student who was among those arrested last week, said young people need to take a stand in the current fight. Perlmutter said republican-led attempts to suppress the student vote and cut public education funding are unacceptable.

“We can’t afford this racist, backwards vision,” he said.

Barber said the protests will continue in tandem with a legal strategy. He said it wasn't yet decided how often the protests would take place.

After the protest, supporters sang and prayed together as a beige inmate transport bus drove off with the arrested protestors inside.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Documentary to show at CAARE in Durham

I, along with my advisor at the Campus Echo, made a 19-minute documentary last year. It's about the Durham Senior Divas 'n Dude Cheerleading Squad.

Evidently, the mayor pro tempore and a county commissioner will speak before we show the documentary at CAARE in Durham on May 8 at 11:30 am. We are showing the documentary in honor of Senior Wellness Month.

See the film below:

In The House from Bull City Doc Squad on Vimeo.

Washington Post story looks at the other side of gun debate

Anne Hull's piece in the Washington Post today tells the story of a mother of two who actually shot a burglar. The guy wasn't armed, but he broke through two doors to get to her and her children:
"By the time Herman called her husband at work to say an intruder was in the house, she had rushed both children into an upstairs bedroom and locked two doors behind her. She also had retrieved a .38 from the gun safe. The only place left to hide was a crawl space that led to the attic, and that’s where Herman crouched, with her son and daughter beside her and a revolver in her hand...
The 37-year-old mother emptied her revolver as the national gun debate was reaching its most fevered pitch in the weeks after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Melinda Herman became an instant hero to gun owners facing new restrictions on firearms." 
I'm not sure the logic follows that everybody should have guns – in fact, I'm sure it doesn't. If anything this shows our culture's incredible obsession with firearms. As for the woman who protected her children: Kudos to her.

But the question is, would she have been faster to draw if the perpetrator had a gun?