Volvo Cowgirl 99

21 Apr

I miss those torn up, worn out ‘90s jeans and black leather pants she used to wear. I miss those old fashioned dresses that she found at thrift shops and wore with round-toed grungy lace-up boots and purple lipstick. I even miss that on-the-verge-of-gothic choker necklace she’d wear almost too tight.

She didn’t know where she was going with her life and she didn’t care. She reasoned that if it made her happy, she’d be fine. She was so free in that way.

She used to hitchhike. She never brushed her hair. She used to steal bikes and ride from town to town with a guitar strapped to her back. She used to take risks. She’d rant nonstop about politics that I didn’t understand at the time and then she wrote upbeat alternative rock ‘n’ roll songs about just that. She’d write songs on long drives, above the coffee shop she once lived in, on the side of the road, anywhere. She played them at coffee shops without pay. She played them at bars, even when she was underage.

I hated her when she stopped writing those songs, and I hated her even more when she stopped singing them.

In short, her life got turned upside down and so she stopped all of that. No one said it would be easy, but she thought a change would do her good. Now she believes she’s right-side-up and headed in a more “positive” direction. She rides in nothing but limousines. She’s an organic herbivore but she doesn’t do her own shopping. She pulled out her mother’s old gospel records and started writing lullabies in that style. She left Las Vegas and bought back her secluded country mansion and started riding horses again. She goes to church every Sunday, and other days too, in disguise. She adopted two children just so she would never be able to go back to that wild and free lifestyle. She sold all of her old albums—the ones she spent twenty-five years of her life writing– to the worst pawnshop in a rural town close to her new home, all of which the owners gladly accepted.

I hate her for that.

I continue to replay those albums plastered with her melancholy expressions on each cover. I play them with my car windows rolled down, letting that grungy sound seep out into the otherwise peaceful nights. I drive, singing those songs about politics that I still don’t understand, wearing old- fashioned dresses from thrift stores and round-toed, lace-up boots.  I write songs and sing them in coffee shops and bars that I’m not old enough to be in. I have a Tuesday Night Music Club of my own now. I’m so free in this way. Maybe that’s something.

But she hates me for it.

Lamentations of a Chronic Pants-Sagger

10 Apr

(See also “Lamentations of a Chronic Traveler” and “Interpretation of a Statistician”)

How else do you say it without laughing?

Brian is a reputable guy during the weekdays. He ties his striped ties tight around his neck, always nestles them neatly underneath the collar of his dress shirts. He wears his very professional and very lightweight silver-rimmed rectangular glasses. He doesn’t slouch; he stands as tall as his lumbar and thoracic vertebrae will permit. His shoes are of the shiny black sort that bank tellers wear. To match all of this, he even wears traditional dress pants.

On the weekends, he plays a nylon-stringed classical guitar. Before he sings, he drinks from his lime-green water bottle filled to the brim with apple cider vinegar, honey, lemon, and just a hint of water that will quickly clean up the slimy cilia that lines his esophagus.

In his free time, he enjoys watching brief videos of animated monotone bankers arguing amongst themselves—the sort of videos that only bankers themselves would find entertaining. He has memorized every character’s script perfectly so that he can recite every word as he watches.

He daydreams of being a Human Anatomy professor and of playing music with Sublime, but doesn’t fully believe that either will happen; Brian is a logical guy. In the meantime, he counts money and tells countless people to have a nice day.

Brian doesn’t party on Mondays.

However, Brian has not always been this way.

When he was in his teens, he frequently partied on Mondays. He had long hair and rode a longboard. He got suspended twice for “chronically sagging” his pants. And as a result, his fellow schoolmates made t-shirts in a protest to “FREE BRIAN” and they made buttons to pin on their boxers that proclaimed, “SAG YOUR PANTS”.

The administrators paid no heed. Instead, they snatched the buttons from each pair of boxers and pinned them up on the corkboards in their offices for an occasional laugh.

Now, Brain often refers to himself in the third person, as if perhaps his soul still resides in that fifteen-year-old boy who chronically sagged his pants. Perhaps he was never freed. Perhaps “Brian” is just the word associated with the bank teller who always wears properly fitted dress pants during the weekdays and never parties on Mondays anymore.

–Camille Garcia

(Based on nonfiction events, including some direct quotes from a somewhat nonfiction character)

Interpretation of a Statistician

24 Mar

How else do you say it without laughing?

He lived a simple life, performing the meticulous everyday tasks that statisticians are likely to do. He wore clothes typical of the generalized population of statisticians: single color ironed dress shirts tucked into ironed and neatly creased tan slacks. On occasion, he liked to wear a grid-patterned shirt because, “Every statistician should own at least one graphical shirt.”

Every morning he made sure to check the weather channel for the percentages of snow, rain, or sun that were neither personal nor relative frequency probabilities, nor were they variables that inflated or deflated the chance that he would alter his daily attire.

He never bought lottery tickets. Though he knew that anything was possible given a simple random sample, he knew that likelihood always outweighed possibilities. He corrected even his closest family members whenever they confused the definitions of “odds” and “probabilities” in everyday speech. There is, in fact, a significant difference.

In his free time, he spent hours numbering pennies and dropping them back into a plastic container that would later determine, when he blindly selected ten of them, which of his students would receive a pop quiz, just to demonstrate “what randomness feels like”.

I think I already know.

I often thought of asking him if he would be able to calculate the odds of all the strange occurrences I experience from day to day, such as seeing and hearing the word “California” ten times a day for nearly a year, or running into the same people in large cities repeatedly within a short timespan.

I think he would consider these cases outliers falling under the margin of error in the experimental reality of life. The problem with statistics is that they provide no explanation– only numbers that don’t rank highly in a confidence interval.

Day of Happiness

22 Mar

Driving from Windy City to the City of Sun was almost unbearable. My friend and I decided to cross the state line on Thursday because we knew better things lay hidden on the other side, but as I drove, the wind whistled through my windshield wipers, ceaselessly howling at us for the entire hour it took to get there. When we finally arrived in the City of Sun, the wind abruptly stopped. It was like magic.

Our first stop was at a coffee shop in an alleyway. We climbed a flight of stairs to reach this supposedly legendary coffee shop. Upon entering, I took in my surroundings—the cultured people, the windows overlooking the town below, the aroma of coffee mixed with lunch food, the laughter, the different atmosphere of each of the four rooms one could choose to sit in—and I thought that in a way, it resembled a café in Hawaii I had once been to. This city has never failed to surprise me; it could be so many places at the same time, even bringing back island memories.

In that coffee shop, I sipped the best-tasting Sweet Chai I have ever had. The creamy texture and blend of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom) were perfect. The rest of the day was spent exploring similarly magical places and strolling the sunny sidewalks of Oldtown. Whenever I come here, I never know if my happiness arises from the positive vibes that everyone in this city radiates, or if I’m just happy to not have to wear a sweater. Probably both—but I was feeling that way on this particular day, too: light and light-hearted and filled with light1 – perhaps an even stronger sensation than usual.

The last shop we entered was one that sells the most beautiful and expensive clothing that I would never buy but always enjoy browsing through. It also sells a variety of locally made jewelry and candles. I had to smell the candles in antique mugs because I always do—and they were the best-smelling candles I think I will ever smell. The candle-maker wouldn’t give away her secret, so I bought one: Fig. To this day the scent lingers in my nostrils.

We were so caught up in the spontaneity of the day that we could only find time to get lunch during late afternoon. After almost half an hour of deciding where we should go, we finally drove to a sandwich shop on the other side of town. The warmth of the day had been consistent, even at this time. As we arrived, I remembered that today, March 20th, was the first official day of spring.

“Hello! Did you know today is the International Day of Happiness?” a smiling woman greeted us when we walked inside. It was like she was asking us, “Did you know you’ve been wearing your shirts inside out for the entire day? No wonder everyone’s been staring at you!”

“Are you serious?” we gawked in unison. No wonder we were so happy.

“Yes, it really is! And it’s the first one ever!” she handed us smiley face stickers that we stuck on our shoulders. “Now if you’d like, you can write down on that poster what you’re happy about today.”

Well, I couldn’t have been happier that those threads of destiny2 had pulled me and Destiny to our favorite city on a sunny day to celebrate happiness on the first ever International Day of Happiness. We would have never known otherwise. I wrote, A day in my favorite place with my best friend and sunshine.

  1. See “Region of Pure Air” published Dec. 27
  2. See “Threads of Destiny”, published Feb. 19

Loyal Trees

4 Mar

Watch how the trees extend their arms up to the sky and spread their fingers, embracing every ounce of liberty and sunshine. Not only do they embrace the sunshine as it descends against a backdrop of bright colors; they embrace the sky through its storms, forever forgiving of its ability to tear off their clothes, leaving them naked for the winter and all through spring. 

Even when the sky’s cold breath forces the birds to flutter out of the trees’ arms and off into the great horizon, their arms remain open and welcoming. Sometimes they grasp the hands of other trees, consoling one another as they watch each resident depart. Yet they loyally hold the lifeless nests tightly to their chests, yearning for the birds to return someday to the homes they had made.

They mourn for months until the sun is finally stable enough to clothe them with only the finest greens nature has to offer, still with outstretched arms throughout their states of loneliness. They hope the birds will return to witness their newfound beauty—and they do. The birds always return, singing songs of celebration as they flock to the trees, embracing them with gratefulness for keeping their homes just as they’d left them. Image

blue light bistro

1 Mar

Months ago, we hesitantly entered the glass doors of this place that was buzzing with the laughter of countless sophisticates. We weren’t quite sure what it was at first—it was much too elaborate to blend in with the typically dull scene of our hometown:

Its walls are glass, so that you can gaze out at the city lights: streetlights and whatever cars might be passing by at that time of night. There is an even thinner sheet of glass separating the bar from the bistro. Above the entrance to the reservation room at the far right, a black and white 1920s film is always being projected onto the wall—not that anyone is ever watching or listening to it intently.

Florescent blue lights illuminate the entire bistro, reflecting off the artificially dyed heads of the regulars there. We always get one of the long tables on the stage to the left of the entrance because there are always at least seven of us. From this position, we can observe the back of whoever is singing karaoke, and the expressions of all the intoxicated professionals in the audience.

People sit at separate tables but they are so close together that anyone could strike up a conversation with the person sitting behind or next to them at any time (although their voices might be overpowered by the karaoke music). The same, welcoming music is always playing whenever we decide to come because the regulars always sing the same songs by the same artists.

Shannon sings Carole King, Les sings Chris Isaak, Tiffany sings Alanis Morissette, Greg sings Red Hot Chile Peppers. There is one outlier: Jean, the feisty older woman with curly gray hair who sings anything from Aretha Franklin to the Rolling Stones with great enthusiasm, curls bouncing like springs in all directions.

It’s become such a familiar place in such a short time; one in which I share a bond with all those city sophisticates who hibernate in their cubicles during the week. We can sing songs for each other and not be embarrassed, because we know that we can only improve with every song each week in an atmosphere illuminated by blue lights and filled with laughter.

Threads of Destiny

19 Feb

I know why the air is clear.

I can almost see those glistening threads,

some thick and some thin

 binding all organisms,

some large and some small,

Together—one silky strand at a time.

Some hang loosely, so fragile they may fall

or break with the slightest gust of wind.

Some are tight, pulling Us with a force

across oceans, hills, and sidewalks

Together—those transparent threads,

some short and some long,

are our destinies.

Some are attached to the heart,

others to the feet; only one string between

two of the living—

I can almost see them all, billions

springing from each one I encounter,

radiating like the sun in all directions,

connecting living grass, water, soil, and hearts

Together. And when a heart stops beating,

its threads detach and depart

from all cells, all hearts;

coiling and collecting themselves

Together—

I know why hearts ache.

Transforming into liquid form,

they unite with fallen threads of the past,

creating streams, rivers, seas, and oceans;

dancing gracefully, they form waves,

nourishing the remaining organisms

that spring from the aged Earth–

I know why water is clear.

Gradually the former threads gravitate

towards the warmth of the sunshine,

placing blessings upon threads still hanging,

some loosely and some tightly.

Ascending up to the heights,

They eternally evaporate

And fall into

the Web of Life

Together.

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