End of the White Line

My brother’s standing in the hallway, holding a few framed vintage photos. The photos look like them from the early 20th century – in one, a stoic, stone faced family stares bleakly into the camera. In another, a baby in a christening outfit.

“Do you want this?” my brother asks.

“Who is it?” I respond.

“I don’t know. Maybe our grandfather? Or our grandfather’s father?”

“Nah, I’m good,” I say. For all the times I’ve wandered through thrift stores, ogling the vintage photographs and the portraits, the opportunity to own framed photos of my own family doesn’t intrigue me. Probably because it’s the white side of my family. I don’t know who any of those people are, or what they did, and, frankly, I don’t really care.

I’m at my brother’s house because he has a few final details to hammer out when it comes to my paternal grandmother’s will. So we are gathered there so he can dole out various knick knacks that may or may not have sentimental or financial value. The last thing that he has is a ring – a diamond ring. With a ruby in it. It was my grandmother’s wedding ring, and of course I want it, but I do the honorable thing and defer to my mother. My mother takes the ring, puts it on.

“If your father saw this, he would kill me,” she says. We all laugh. My mother waves her hand around, watching the diamonds glisten.

“But you deserve it. After everything you went through,” I say. It’s true – my grandmother, a waspy, wispy woman whose blood line was 100% Dutch, was never kind to my mother. Mostly because my mother is Mexican and Filipino. My mother nods her head in acknowledgement of my statement.

“That ring is worth thousands of dollars,” my brother tells her.

I look at my siblings, who are gathered there, masks on, socially distanced, and I can’t help but smile. For all the horrible things my grandmother did to her daughter in law, isn’t this the best revenge. We are all mixed race, and my siblings’ children are even more mixed and less white than we are. When my grandmother died, she was the last remaining white person in my family. And now, here we are. The white people may be gone from this family forever, but their money remains.

Saturday January 2nd 1965

My mother recently gave me the love letters that she and my father wrote to each other during their brief 3 month courtship before their marriage. They were both young and attending UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement. This is the first one.

Saturday January 2nd 1965 to Dale

Hi –

              I really shouldn’t write so soon – but I hope you don’t mind. Did you get off alright – no consternation of any sort – I hope your parents don’t dislike me very much for keeping you so long – of course it wasn’t all my fault –

              Guess what?! Cause for great excitement – I finally got the kitchen window down! Chills & thrills. My flowers are so pretty – but the bottom petals are turning brown – but I pulled those off & now they look almost new – I also took my black coat to the cleaners & the lady said she’d sew the buttons back on & I cleaned the front closet and now I’m sitting writing to you! I taped the map you gave me to the wall near my bed – oh joy!

              About the FSM [Free Speech Movement] trials – are you going to be tried or merely sentenced? When will you know?

              I really don’t have that much to say – but I thought I’d write you anyways.

              I was looking for your address & I found it isn’t yours I have, but Lana’s – so I called Berkeley information & now I not only have your address – but your phone number too – isn’t that just great?!

              I tried calling my brother today and ask if I could stay with him for the weekend of the 15th – but his number has been – record stopped – disconnected – so I shall therefore have to write him a letter. I don’t know your number so if you would be so kind as to enclose (?) it in a letter (hint) it will be greatly appreciated.

              Thanking you in advance –

                             Always,

                                           Nena

P.S. please write when you have time

P.P.S. I sort of miss you

P.P.S.S. I do miss you

Is this stationery too much?

Oh – are the demonstrations going strong again? – what’s the main objective?

I think my pen needs a refill

Terror

I am afraid of the person I used to be. Because what if that’s who I truly am, and the person I am today is just a passing phase, a blip on the radar. What if I really am as broken and grotesque as that girl who used to go out partying five nights a week, fucking whoever, broke and alone? And my current reality is teetering on the edge of stability and sanity, and if the winds of self indulgence blow in the wrong direction I’ll be back over the cliff again. Falling into my old ways. Being bad. Chasing anything that can make me feel like the whole in my heart has been plugged up for at least five minutes. What if I haven’t grown. What if I didn’t change. What if I’m still merely moments away from blowing all my money on Gucci bags and booze. Or, worse – what if I call him. What if I tell him that I need him. I can’t live without him anymore. What if I go back to the person who hurt me the most, and what if I like it. No – I can’t dare to think thoughts like that anymore. As I survey the life I have built without any of that bullshit, and how beautiful it is to be calm, and mentally stable, and unbothered by the abuse that I threw myself into. Wasted, sitting in the passenger seat of the car parked outside the bar, sobbing, waiting for him to come get me. No, that’s not me. I don’t do that anymore. Not because I can’t but because I’ve changed. I know better now. Right? I deposit money into my savings account every month, I eat my vegetables, I get my exercise, I go to sleep at a reasonable hour, I never get hungover anymore. I certainly don’t engage with men who whisper vile things in my ear while we’re fucking, or take my shit, or tell me I’ll never accomplish my dreams. I don’t do that. I wouldn’t do that again. Or would I?

Worst. Insurrection. Ever.

Ok, I get it, I’m supposed to be mad about all these liberal talking points, but in all honesty I don’t *really* care because I’m an American, and there’s nothing more American than not caring about other people. Really, I’m just mad that these magat Trumpers attempt at a coup was so anticlimactic. They stormed the Capitol Building and then…took selfies?! What the fuck! I thought y’all were just getting started, but, nope, no booms, no bangs, no blow ups. I thought the Q Anons were all about triggering the libs, literally, with their guns, but…sigh. As someone who is a fan of the political spectacle, this wasn’t very spectacular. I was excited about grabbing some popcorn and watching some mutually assured destruction in the form of political theater, but, nope, I did not get to watch the cops versus Trumpers show down that I was so eagerly anticipating. I guess I should say thank you to these wingnuts for finally galvanizing the lazy ass Democrats into doing something decisive – although, I’m not entirely sure this talk of the 25th amendment has legs because the Democrats, in the depths of their hearts, still suck. I should also thank the wingnuts for outing themselves, too – saves the rest of us a lot of work. Hopefully lawmakers seriously investigate the police and their complicity in white supremacy. This is how bad it had to get for the rest of the country to wake up and take this shit seriously. Anyway, that being said, this insurrection was quite laughable, and while I love to laugh, I’m also a fan of the insurrection just as a general concept, so it was disappointing to see it executed so poorly. As an anti-authoritarian anarchist, it was definitely exciting to watch an attempted coup go down, but I must admit that it was a bummer that the fascists were the ones who tried to pull it off. Granted, we did learn a lot. However, today is a new day, so it’s another opportunity to plot moments of subversion and cultural destruction. God, it feels good to be an American.

Is The P-Spot The Devil And Responsible For Everything That Is Wrong With Society?

I woke up with a lot on my mind this morning. Namely, I’ve been thinking about how men ask women, “Does putting a tampon in feel like sex?” Answer: no. But I have a similar question for men: Fellas, have you ever taken a shit that’s bigger than a dick? Fellas, do you get aroused by taking a shit? Did it feel good when you shit it out? Fellas, if you hold your big poops in for too long, does it turn you on? Fellas, are bowel movements gay? Have the men been lying about this the whole time! Does this explain why they’re always thinking about sex – they’re literally having it with their own shit every day? Perhaps there’s a solution to this. Much in the same way that conservative Christians don’t let their daughters wear tampons because they have to save it for their husbands, maybe we should put the men on a permanent laxative regimen. That way they’ll be freed from the daily p-spot stimulation, which is literally the devil./s

A List of Today’s Pet Peeves

Here are a few things that pissed me off today

  • It’s really annoying when people who have no style tell me I look good. First of all, yes, I know I look good because I dressed myself this morning. Second of all, if you can recognize good style on me but can’t execute it yourself, then what are you doing? Stop worrying about what I’m doing and fix your own damn self. Thirdly, it’s just creepy and weird. I refuse to indulge it, mostly because what the fuck do you want from me? You’re clearly not here to have a conversation with my about style, fashion, designers, clothing, etc. Whatever it is you want, I’m not giving it because that’s not how I roll.
  • Black comedy and black humor are not the same thing, and that’s weird.
  • Everyone always hates on that Naomi Campbell quote where she said she doesn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. Sure, there’s a lot to unpack around how racist the fashion industry was to Naomi Campbell, but also, what the fuck, this is exactly what people say about sports players. Oh, the models are overpaid. Oh, the athletes are overpaid. But no one ever says, oh, the NFL team owners are overpaid or the fashion house owners are overpaid. It’s easy to point at someone like Naomi Campbell, who is very public facing and is a product in her own right, and hate her for making what to us is a lot of money. But relative to the fashion industry as whole, is she overpaid or are the rest of us just settling for peanuts? I’m not a hater. One day I aspire to only get out of bed for $10,000 a day, but I’m no Naomi Campbell so I’m gonna keep my day job.

Hot Takes on Bad Dates

First, off, yes, I know I shouldn’t be looking for strange during a pandemic, but it’s degenerate week and I just can’t help myself. Secondly, wow, I forgot that the pandemic has been made all of us gradually less and less social apt, but, again, wow, the men…what is going on with the men! Maybe nothing, but I just haven’t been around the men is so long that anything they do registers as wtf on my social Richter scale. What bothered me about this particular date was the conversation. As an intelligent woman, I know how to debate a variety of topics, and I also have my own opinions that I’ve formed without help from mainstream political influencers because I’m cool like that. However, it seems that I had forgotten that men don’t like being intellectually challenged by women. These types of men love their hot takes and their unsolicited opinions on things they know nothing about. It’s a tedious dynamic, and I found myself in it again last night: talking to a man who thinks he’s smarter than he actually is. It makes for insufferable conversation, mostly because these men like to argue themselves into circles without having any concrete evidence of things on which they speak, but I’m an amenable gal, and it’s not like I hang out with people are very politically different from me, so I always find a way to wind the conversation back to something we can agree upon. Which always seems to be lost on them. There’s something we agree upon. Can you hear me? You don’t need to argue at me anymore. We basically kinda agree just for different reasons. Hello? Oh, you’re still talking? You’re still mad? Are you mad because we agree? I’m so confused. Now things are weird, and it always lands me at this weird emotional standstill of: didn’t I come here to fuck you and now you’re being mean and angry about something we agree on? Is that supposed to get me in the mood? Like, oh, wow, big smart guy with the big loud opinion knows how to debate with the air! Honestly, I find it to be alienating. I guess it goes without saying that these men are bad in bed, but, eh, decided to say it anyway.

Rape Fantasy

“Last time I saw you, you were wearing that cute little dress, and if *** hadn’t been there, I would have taken you to the kitchen, bent you over, and -“

“What, rape me!?”

“What, no that’s not what I was going to say!”

“Well, it would have been rape, because I do not consent to this fantasy, and any fantasy that you have of fucking me is a rape fantasy because I don’t want to fuck you!”

“Aw, c’mon, you looked so good. I just wanted to-“

“No! Rape! Rape fantasy! You’re having a rape fantasy! That’s gross! Go away!”

The Surrealism of the Self

Sometimes I think about my suicide note and all the names I put in there. All the people I thought I loved and all the things that matter now. There’s nothing quite like life slipping away to make you feel the things you need. There’s nothing quite like time passing to make you realize that you don’t need them anymore. Which I guess is the surrealistic part: the alchemy of despair into indifference. I would have died for you, and now I don’t even know your name. That’s the surrealistic part. Is knowing now who I am without you, when at one point you defined who I was. I was no one without you, yet here I am: someone, all alone. I am a conundrum without you. A paradox. An enigma of the self, without you by my side, yet somehow not yet dying. But I could have. And I tried. I cannot live without you, but I cannot die without you, either.

The Evolution of American Cuisine + Militant Radical Hospitality

I picked up an old cook book about the genesis of California Cuisine, and I couldn’t help but think, “This was probably invented by black people.” Not because I have any proof, but just because that’s how America works. Although, as soon as I thought about it, I realized: well, cooking is a servant’s job. A slave’s job. The creativity of cuisine has never belonged to the upper class. There’s nothing very glamorous about it. Which means that there’s nothing very original about California Cuisine. As much as I love it, the concept of using ‘fresh, local ingredients’ was only revolutionary after the doldrums of WWII canned goods efficiency. Cooking other regions’ cuisines with local produce was always going to be California Cuisine. Substituting this spice and that green for something else would always look exactly like this. Reworking everything to be more salad-y and diet friendly wasn’t radical. California Cuisine is, at its essence, very unoriginal. It’s just the fetishization of farmers’ markets for white people. Produce is now Instagram-able, and that’s the essence of California Cuisine. It’s just marketing something that has always been around.

Fusion cuisine was, likewise, inevitable. The idea that cultures can survive intact and in their original form in a place like America is ridiculous. Even though I hate fusion cuisine – I’ll pass on cream cheese in sushi, dessert tacos, and tamale casserole – I guess I am, in essence, a fusion person, so there must be more to fusion cuisine than just cultural dilution. In all honesty, one of my favorite Indian dishes is technically British. Chicken Tikka Masala was created in London in the 1960s, and now it has been elevated as a signature dish of ‘Indian’ cuisine. Likewise, cuisine is a living expression of culture. It isn’t static because our economy isn’t static and the weather isn’t static and agriculture isn’t static. There’s a subtle sense of nationalism that goes along with any particular culture thinking they can come to America and preserve their cuisine intact just as it was in the motherland. Although, maybe it’s not nationalism, maybe it’s just a sense of pride. But for the people who came here willingly – part of the agreement with newfound Americanism is accepting the tenets of assimilation, even when those tenets of assimilation are off base and gauche. Which is to say: of course there’s a certain degree of cultural dilution that will happen. It’s called the ‘melting pot’ for fuck’s sake. How much can you really hang onto in a place like this? Perhaps the line should get drawn, just for convenience’s sake, because while cultural dilution is to be expected, it’s the cultural appropriation that is the pest in this situation. Because in cultural dilution, at least your culture can be diluted not in a true sense but just in the sense that your culture mixes with other equally vibrant and exciting cultures, which in turn produces a newer culture, an American culture, of which you can take ownership and power. On the other hand, cultural appropriation is merely exploitation. A white man with a taco stand is cultural appropriation. A Mexican man selling mole ice cream is not.

This is all to say: American cuisine is just a lot of borrowing. Except for Southern cooking. Southern cooking is American cooking, more so than fusion cuisine or New York pizza. Fried chicken, bbq, gumbo, and bourbon peach pie – that’s innovation. I’m a California girl, tried and true, but I gotta give credit where credit is due: the South. We’d still be eating aspic and milk for lunch if it weren’t for the south. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel when it comes to cooking because fried chicken simply can’t be improved upon. But in my exploration of what it means to be an American cook, I have stumbled across something that could perhaps use a bit of updating: Southern hospitality.

I have no clue what the fuck Southern hospitality is because I grew up in the Bay Area, California, and we’re way too political to be hospitable to anybody. Which I guess is ironic because we have a nationally lauded restaurant scene, and I have worked in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life. So you’d think I’d know something about hospitality. But I don’t. Not according to the old rules. I picked up an Emily Post book about etiquette just so I could see what I had gotten wrong, and turns out I got all of it wrong. Mostly because that iteration etiquette is rooted in what we would now refer to as racist, misogynistic perspectives. Apparently there’s a proper order for people to sit at a table. When pouring wine, you’re supposed to serve the gentleman first, but I always served the lady first based on the simple scientific logic that women have more taste buds and therefore will have a more informed opinion on whether or not the wine is good.

What happens to etiquette when it isn’t based on the ideas that women are weak and white men rule the world? I’d love to rewrite etiquette and hospitality for a post-gender, pro-gay, BLM, feminist era. We’ll keep the food the same, but we’ll abide by etiquette for antifa from hereon out. It will be a chaotic, disordered etiquette, unbounded by RSVPs and calling cards and punctuality. I’m not quite sure what it is yet, but I’ll figure it out since I’m living right in the middle of it.