Archive | February, 2014

My father, a passenger in my car, my cumbia dance partner

25 Feb

“By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy.” – Gloria Anzaldua

Writing has increasingly become the manner in which I self-medicate. In a world where we seek to be seen and validated, writing holds the space I need to unfold, hang, and air my pensive sensitivities. I share stories that need telling. And most importantly, I rest my mind and my heart because I’ve acknowledged myself. It’s a completely selfish act.

As I process the grief that continuously reappears in my life, I discover triggers that deeply affect my state of being. Seemingly unimportant experiences that remind me of my father, reminding me of his death, weave in unexpectedly. I understand now, this is how my grief appears.

My father went to Trade Technical College and became a certified diesel engine specialist. He was a mechanic on Bandini Blvd. between the 710 Freeway and Soto Blvd. I recently began working at a middle school in East Compton and use the 710 to get to and from work. Going South on the freeway is perfectly fine, but driving North begins to distract my mind from traffic. I head in the direction of the memories in which I would meet my father at his place of work. The 710 was the most accessible way to get to him, exiting on Bandini West, driving past the smelly slaughterhouse, and driving into a large diesel truck service station. My father would be underneath a big rig motor and he would crawl out in his navy blue mechanic uniform with a giant wrench in his hand. Always thirsty from the heat, he would give me a half-hug because he was sweaty and filled with engine grease on his hands and arms. This was the way he worked for almost 3 decades. This is the way I remember him.

Driving home today on the 710 really push my feelings in a heavy way. I sensed the memory through my body and shook it off. I don’t want to drive on the 710 North again. It triggers my grief. Sadness becomes my passenger as a search for the next highway home.

To end this piece in a good way, I have to write about dancing. My father LOVED to dance. L-O-V-E-D. He would laugh and carry a huge smile when he moved around on a dance floor. He enjoyed live music, Peruvian dishes, and a cold drink. He would invite the ladies to dance, panuelo waving in his hand, fancy white shoes shuffling and spinning. Only once did I have the chance to ask my father to dance with me. Mirrors of each other, in that moment I discovered that my love for dancing was a genetic bond I share with him.

I went out dancing on Saturday night, my left leg still feels the cramps from the lack of stretching and inconsistent exercise. Whatever. I dance like I mean it and I will sweat, jump, spin, groove, and rock to the music. My cumbia is my dad’s cumbia, and I remember him this way. He is my dancing partner on the dance floor.

There are other triggers that take me to the memories of my father. When they show, I just pray that I “handle it” with grace and patience, never with shame. 

head mecanic

Freedom looks different to each person

9 Feb

“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart and no one can take it away.” – Chinese Artist Ai Wei Wei

Across the world there is a multitude of confines that place limitations on our bodies and our expression bc of political, patriarchal, and/or corrupt reasons. I simply don’t want to talk about that right now. It is my responsibility to acknowledge that it exists. It is your responsibility to understand the many ways in which it happens everyday, almost everywhere.

I relate to Ai Wei Wei’s expression, not in a political sense, but in a spiritual sense. The first thing that came to mind when I heard this was the way in which i have felt the most free when I am out in nature. If you have the opportunity to leave the city and visit a forest, a mountain, a river, or a cliff overlooking the ocean, then you know that the fresh air you breath satisfies more than your lungs. There is calmness in the mind from a walk into a damp forest that crosses a creek whose running water makes that mellow melody of water over rocks and pebbles. That moment when you decide to take off your shoes and let your feet touch the cold water is freedom.


I have been fortunate to travel, backpack, snorkel, hike volcanoes, and make my own fires for warmth. I have tasted sweet, clear running water from rivers that fill as the sun melts the snow on the mountain i can point to. I’ve been tumbled and lifted, cradled and cleansed by ocean waves that make me feel weightless. I have felt powerful in my arrival to lost lakes and morning dawns after the pain and struggle of mile long uphill terrains. I have felt freedom this way.

Having found freedom in nature is the reason why my spirit always feels a sense of deprivation when my body resides in the city. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. When I was in high school i wouldn’t ditch to go smoke or drink at some kick back, i would jump fences and go boogie boarding at the beach. I would go swimming or visit the Friendship Bell in San Pedro and look out to Catalina Island. This innate necessity for freedom is probably what led me to go to college in Santa Cruz. I escaped South Central at 18 to fall in love with a redwood forest.

I’m going to leave this city… again and again. I really will. Im always planning my escape. When I finish grad school I am going to live some place tucked between hills and ocean. I will have trails and bike paths that cross rivers and hot springs. I am going to find my piece of freedom outside of this city.

Until then… I suppose i will “vacation” in far away lands, “retreat” to local mountain sides, and keep on hiking the local trails of Eaton Canyon and smog filled Griffith Park.