Friday, October 31, 2008

a letter to the people

Dear America,

Throughout my entire 20s, I have tried to understand this nation and more importantly the people that share it with me. At 19 years old, I was new to New York, had just transferred schools, and did not take the time to register, though I also can't remember if I was even registered in California. I figured New York and California would both go blue, what did it even matter? I went to sleep that night thinking Gore won and woke up to find that Bush was actually the controversial winner of the 2000 election.

A year later I found myself running across lower Manhattan watching the Twin Towers fall into the streets. And two months before I graduated college my country invaded Iraq. Days before the invasion, I remember walking in an anti-war protest that swallowed up New York City. A young girl dressed in a hijab had poured fake blood all over herself and wore a sign that read, "Thank you for liberating me, President Bush." I felt this gripping sense of fear. I knew the world was going to rip apart at the seams.

A couple years later I registered to vote and voted for Kerry at 6am in California. When Kerry lost, I was heartbroken. I was angry and depressed for weeks carrying my emotions on my sleeve, taking out my frustration on every one in sight. And then I caught myself screaming at the tv. I had so much anger and so many complaints and yet I had not made any effort to understand our government, to understand our electoral process and more importantly to understand what is at the root of all the problems I see. Even if I wanted change, I had no understanding of how to do it.

I quit my job and my best friend and I drove around the country interviewing people our age about whether or not they had a voice. Do they think their vote counts? If they could say one thing to America what would it be? We edited it for three years and sent it to several festivals. It was only picked up by Philly Independent, but we still felt we had done something important, even if it was to simply create a dialogue. During those interviews we asked about how they felt about the current leadership of the country. Almost 100 percent were outraged, but years later I wish I had asked them what they wanted in a leader. At the time, a couple people had brought up Barack Obama on their own. He was talked about almost with a slight amount of fear like he was a dream, an unrealistic possibility, and yet... oh the possibilities!!

Now we are here, a few days before one of the most historic elections in history and the emotions are out in the streets, through the millions of wires in the internet, the channels and newspapers all around the world, with what I can't helpt but see as a basic question:

Does America have the courage to embrace change?

Because in the end, the number one undisputed fact is that eight years of Republican rule has completely fucked this country up, not to mention, as well as the global market and the Middle East. We have been lied to, admittedly lied to, we have been robbed, and we have sacraficed sons and daughters, mothers, fathers, big brothers and baby sisters for a war that had no exit plan and whose fundamental purpose was dishonest at best.

Despite Obama's carefully thought out health care plan, his timetable for troop withdrawal in Iraq, his tax cuts that protect the middle class, his passionate pursuit of putting the environment as a top priority for America and not just from a "save the trees" perspective and "beware of global warming," but as a way that makes going green economically beneficial and will create jobs in an ailing economy, despite Obama's more than inspiring but incredibly empowering speeches, his revolutionary campaign and his Kennedy-like temperament, Obama's very name promises this country the chance to free themselves from the shackles of fear, to let the American people feel some light in a country that has been clouded by a deeply rooted racism for centuries, and the opportunity to believe in hope over terror, light over dark, and the power of one's own voice, the true power of a people to make change in their democracy.
America, be bold, be brave, and believe in yourselves.


A fearless citizen

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the preacher in the rain

he preaches in the rain
shivering with the people
without hat and without umbrella
he is not afraid
and for 22 minutes, i am not either
i forget about the miserable weather and the rain leaking into the crevasses of my jacket
and i join in the silence of the crowd
all straining to hear the preacher
he talks of change
he talks of better times
he talks of the ability we, as a nation, to stand in the rain if we have hope in our hearts
i can't help but feel i am a part of history
and it strikes me what true leadership is
for the first time in my life i see before me a true leader
one that inspires, but more importantly, one that empowers
preach on, preacher

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the afterglow

he dresses in sleeping beauty gowns
snow white lace
lipstick upon his face
and his mother tells her "we'll be lucky if he's gay."
he finds the joy of silk through the sense of touch on his body
he is exquisite in his cinderella tiara
dancing to the beat of his own playskool drum in his babysitter's platform heels.
there was a time when pink and blue were just colors.
shades of the rainbow
not the definition of which side you stood on it.
his father does the best he can to feign fright
when the babysitter brings another disney princess dress for the boy.
the boy squeals with delight
and the babysitter turns to the father and says, "at least it's blue."
there is humility in her words and love in her voice
and for the first time the father realizes his choice
to do away with the colors pink and blue and decide to live life in the glow of the rainbow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

why i had to kill my ego in order to leave hollywood and find happines in piscataway, nj: a homework assignment in memoir writing

coming out of the canyon, coldwater canyon, crossing the intersection of sunset blvd and beverly drive, i am struck by the odd nostalgia and pathetic excitement of having once known when russell crowe would be staying at the beverly hills hotel that rests on that threshold.

i continue forward, struggling with a borrowed manual mustang on loan to me from my father for my short visit home. i pull into the old neighborhood and the hotel that i used to look out on during construction has now been completely built in the last six months. i valet park even though at first i looked around for my parking key. this is no longer my work. i take the elevator straight to the 7th floor and enter the space i used to run. i greet the receptionist who has been there too long, perhaps a little angry with me for having to fill my shoes after five months on the job. No one in the company's history had climbed so fast to be the lowest man on the totem pole in the boys club of hollywood.

i am waiting to meet with my old boss, whose life it was once my job to manage, which in turn made it my life. i exchange pleasantries with his new assistant and for a second i am oddly jealous. she is at my desk, answering my phones, all wrong of course, and yet i had gladly given up this throne. he comes around the corner and greets me with a warm hug. we are no longer boss and assistant, but dare i say friends. we council each other on the directions are lives are going after a six month seperation, almost like a break up.

at first i lie to him and tell him how GREAT and FANTASTIC i am doing now that i gave hollywood up to be a real artist with integrity in new york. within minutes, i reveal that i have not written anything brilliant nor have i found a great job or cool studio in williamsburg. i am, in fact, a receptionist for the second time in my life, only this time i don't answer calls from russell crowe. i answer attendance calls from overly neurotic parents in greenwich village. i am living in new jersey with my boyfriend who is a large part of why i moved. and i am broke...very broke. he laughs, "you seem happy."

a smile takes over my face, "i am. i haven't quite figured it out yet, but i'm happy." and for a second, honesty prevails and we both recognize that leaving my pseudo-hot shot job in hollywood to become a confused receptionist in new york was the right decision. i tell him how i battle my ego on a weekly basis but in the simplest of ways. on weeks where i am confident that i am a writer struggling to make it, when people ask me what i do for a living, i say, "i'm a receptionist." and on weeks where i am not sure i will ever make it, i say, "i'm just a receptionist right now," as if to say, "please don't judge me. i am really brilliant."

he reiterates the idea of fear. "fear is as real as this table. it is as real as you or i. you gotta fight it everyday with everything you got."

after our reunion, i stroll the office and visit my old friends. i am a breath of fresh air. i am "the other side."all notions of nostalgia melt away as they confess their miseries in sarcasm and overly dry humor. they ask me what i'm doing in new york and i smile and say, "i'm a receptionist."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

the poltics of politeness in pennsylvania

"are you registered to vote?"
"yes. yes, i vote. i need to make a pin that says, yes, i do vote. please stop bothering me."
"sorry. its the last day to register so there is a lot of us out there."
"i thought it was Monday."
"it tehnically is, but the registrations need to bein by Monday, not just postmarked. so we drive them to the office."
"well, i'm not from here..."
neither am i.
"...but what you all are doing here is sickening. you need music, red white and blue. i registered 3,000 kids."
i think about how to react to theword 'sickening' and decide to swallow my attitude.
"oh, where was that?"
"at my school where i work. but this is just sickening."
she grumbles off with her young daughter in tow and i am not sure why she is so angry.
but i am even more troubled by why i can't shake this interaction.
many people thankedme for volunteering for an almost thankless job, and yet this woman was who i told everyone about.
i try to shake it off and i register three more people making the total day worth 4 new votes.
the question of change comes up in the car.
"do you feel you are making change?"
the eldest of the three responds, "No."
But she still had registered people another two hours after that.
"its not about how it makes us feel."
i think about that and it makes the afternoon a little clearer.
"are you going to come back?"
i still don't have an answer.
"i don't know."
one of thefied organizers thanks us.
"you know, doing this is the only way i can sleep at night."
i consider the thought.
i still don't have an answer, but on the way back, we had to pull over as we all fell soundly into a satisfying nap.