The Time Junot Diaz Talked At Me

junot diaz 2.jpgTwo years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning Junot Diaz stood in front of a packed auditorium and read to us a passage from his book, This is How You Lose Her. It’s the story where Yunior cheats on his girlfriend, Alma, who has a “long tender horse neck” and grew up in Hoboken, “part of the Latino community that got its heart burned out in the eighties”.

Diaz read slowly. Enunciated. And we were captivated.

Except I didn’t know who he was. Someone in the news room just said he was famous. I didn’t put two and two together to realize that this Junot Diaz was the Junot Diaz, author of Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. So the significance of seeing–being read to by–Junot Diaz in the flesh did not occur to me as I pointed my massive camera towards him. Click. He said something to me about him not doing anything particularly cool. So why was I pointing the camera all up in his face? (Hey, I’m just here with the newspaper) Looking back, though, he talked at me. 

junot diaz.jpg

Diaz talked about collective student insecurity. And fragmented activism, and what to do about it. He talked about a whole slew of things that I jotted down in Notes even though I wasn’t even the one writing an article about him.

I googled him later and then it hit me–he’d written the Cheater’s Guide to Love, the one I read in the New Yorker summer of 2013. The first time I read the story I awoke drenched in sweat and read it again and again. Some of the metaphors I repeated over and over, tucked into my mind, then toyed with for years afterwards.

I write this as I finish reading This is How You Lose Her for the sixth (or seventh) time.

Advertisements

Attitude of Gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle

It’s been a minute since I’ve sat down and counted my blessings, been actively grateful for what I have in life. Ironically, I’ll do this sort of thing when I’m at my lowest. So it’ll be in fits of sadness or confusion or negative what-have-you’s that I’ll write out the things that make me happiest. Projects I’ve embarked on in the past three years: three good thing that happened today and why; 100 happy days; list of reasons to be happy, stuff like that. But when I am cruising on happiness and genuinely content, as I am now, and as I have been, I’ll do everything but. 

The daily quote by Tolle on Momentum, a Chrome installation, reminds me otherwise. So, in the spirit of acknowledging the good, and not just when it’s bad, here are 10 things that in my life that, well, bring me happiness. Or at the very least, that I am grateful for. Continue reading

Solar Eclipse

Processed with Moldiv

Shadows, passing moon, a darkening sky. Even though it’s ten degrees cooler my dress is sticky with sweat. I’m holding up a bright yellow Cheerios box that reflects the sky since I didn’t order solar eclipse glasses in time (you can’t see it with the naked eye–you’ll go blind). When I look inside the box, I see a little orb of whitish blinding sun glaring at me from the back of box; I see a black dot, the Moon! inching across the orb.

The Solar Eclipse: when the homewrecking Moon passes between Sun and Earth.

Some parts of the country saw the solar eclipse in its totality. Others, only partially. If you google solar eclipse, you’ll find a ringlet-of-fire-looking thing–the sun’s corona–staring back at you the way it did in my textbooks. That’s what the people in its path today saw. Alas, I didn’t, not in its entirety. Taken from the small cut-out opening, this picture shows the blurry partial eclipse seen from my location. The sun looks, ironically, like a little moon where the moon passes over.

eclipse.jpg

Like seeing science in the flesh. I remember the first time I peered into the telescope to see a massive spotty Jupiter staring right back. I experienced less an epiphany than I did surprise: I knew the planets were there, but they’d always been more…conceptual to me. Science had always been removed by textbooks, grades, illustrations to recreate. Earth was a plastic globe spinning on my pre-k teacher’s desk–according to her, it rotated constantly, and I imagined it spun on its own at night. In physics, in astro, I memorized definitions, calculated coordinates, listened to songs about stars in the sky, but I didn’t always get it, just regurgitated for the grade.

But for a moment, today, I got it. The sheer coolness of solar eclipse wasn’t so much about it being the first in several years (there’ll be another in 2024), or the well-publicized hype. It was more of a small a-ha moment, when things clicked in my head, when textbook definition met astro illustration met real life demonstration. Like in the fourth grade when I watched vinegar and baking soda bubble volcano-ey; like in sophomore Chemistry when my teacher said, “there’s no such thing as cold, only the absence of heat”. Like the moment I understood that basics and acids, when combined, neutralize to create salt and water. Quirky instances of science that, at some point, sunk in beyond the understanding-for-a-grade level.

And today it sunk in–the light-spitting corona; a massive crater-riddled Moon. Us, wee little people, pointing paper glasses towards the sky, oohing and aahing on a (carbon) coughing-sputtering earth.

Reflections in the Water

sculpture garden

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; Freud theorizes that we all harbor some childhood wound we’re all seeking to recreate. Mistake one, mistake two, mistake three, mistake four. But four wasn’t insanity. And four wasn’t an old wound. Four was, instead, ironically, cheesily, gradually then all at once, one of the best things to happen. A summery wish granted, a wintry curiosity piqued: reflections in the water (I did it again I did it again I did it again)

Austin, Texas

Austin’s beautiful, weird, a city juxtaposed. Words that come to mind:

Urban. Street art. Hills. Vines. Curving roads. Steep inclines. Mountains. Ponds. Chipped concrete. Gravel parking lots. Loose rocks. Sprawling lakes. Kayaks and paddle-boards. Arched bridges. Pointy-winged bats. Sunsets in high places. Wealth stacked atop mountains. Income disparity. Food trucks. Bars. Loud music. Crowded cafes. Shitty parking. Rocky terrain. Small bulbs of lights, broken windows on geometrical homes. Palm trees and record shops sprinkled around the streets. Oddly California-esque for a Texan city.

On the trip, I jotted down a list of places we went, things we did, food we ate. In lieu of writing a massive post, I wrote down the highlights, which I’ve linked to in the list.

Saturday

  • And we roadtrip: playlist and stops along the way
  • Lunch and noms: chicken fried steak, a burger, peach moonshine
  • Headed out to Graffiti Park, realized we’d forgotten the spray, went back to get it, then climbed to the top to make our mark
  • Drove up to the lake for views, pink drinks and fancy glasses
  • Grabbed burgers at P. Terry’s

Sunday

  • Went hunting for cafes–all crowded. Visited a coffeeshop by a record store, dipped in. Went to yet another cafe, until we finally settled on Starbucks
  • Drove to Rainey Street, which was dotted with food trucks, bars, and restaurant. Ate at a Rowdy outdoor restaurant called Bangers, where musicians played right in our faces
  • Zilker Park. First saw the big ol’ field, then some kayaks on Lady Bird Lake.
  • Went kayaking! Decided to kayak wildly and arbitrarily to the far off bridge. One hour turned into an hour and a half
  • Afterwards, sopping wet, hiked up Mount Bonnel
  • Ate at Gordough’s, only the most delicious donut place to graze the planet. Heaps of strawberry and cream cheese on ours.

Monday

  • Gordough’s for lunch (again)
  • Third cafe’s the charm–we found one right by the Capitol
  • Went to the Capitol and walked around all the floor
  • Drove past South Congress to get Gordoughs (for the third time)
  • Took scenic route, where we drove through hill country. Passed by small towns, stopped at a restaurant. Found a hungry cat, which we fed beef jerky.
  • Sunset, winding roads, dim lighting. After a few hours, we finally reached the main highway. DJ’ed and we pseudo-clubbed on the way back.