Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Sweet and Tender Hooligan

 Sweet and Tender Hooligans at Anaheim House of Blues

My nephew, Cody, attends school at Tustin High, where Roland and I teach. Yes, I know it must be a "boost" to his social life! Lately Cody has been riding with me, Miguel and Oliver in the mornings to school and naturally, I listen to Morrissey or The Smiths every now and again. Naturally. Cody said that he liked Morrissey's music especially Years of Refusal having never heard of The Smiths or Morrissey before. As a Christmas present and to encourage an awesome taste in music, I took him to see the Sweet and Tender Hooligans at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Roland and I decided to see them again during our break. Let me rephrase that: I decided that we were going.

It must be a nightmare being married to someone like me sometimes.

The gig was in Anaheim so no adventure stories trying to get there. No detectable wierdos. Pretty dull.

The Sweet and Tender Hooligans were supported by a Depeche Mode tribute band called Strangelove.  They were excellent. Technically, they had every move and every note and piece of syth equipment down-just like DM. Problem: its no longer the 80's and Depeche Mode seems kind of boring for an hour or more. They are very "of their time" in my opinion.

Let's face it. How many times can you watch Dave Gahan twirl around with a microphone stand? I kept waiting for him to accidentally hit one of his band mates. I kept imagining it. Not quite hoping.

On the other hand, DM were extremely popular in Southern California back in the day. The audience at Anaheim HOB seemed to know the words to nearly every song.

Gig Legs
It was difficult watching Cody, a mere seventeen year old, at his first gig hanging onto the wall so that he could stay on his feet. It made me impressed with my own 46 year-old legs and feet. That they were seemingly stronger!! My gig legs.

We were kind of situated near a corner by the bar and a door leading to the stage, I guess. It had a pretty good view, but the down side was that everyone and their dog had to pass by us to get to the bar. It was an All Ages event and we saw a child or two younger than Oliver there but I couldn't imagine taking anyone younger than Cody unless they had such a keen interest in Morrissey and the Smiths that they could withstand the noise, the drunkeness and the debachery.

The gig itself was like one big singalong with fellow Morrissey/Smiths people. Jose Maldonado is a spot on performer and the band is obviously extremely talented. Jose has a great voice and he dances like Morrissey used to back when we were younger. I wanted to dance like that again, but I was self-conscious. My gig legs could do it though, I'm sure.

Roland and Cody leaning on the wall

A good tribute band gig is like receiving Holy Communion. I've noted this before when seeing this band. Its like all the lonely people have crawled out of their holes and decided to not be so lonely for an hour or so. Not in a sad way. In a celebratory way. Its reassuring to know that lyrics like Morrissey's speak to so many people. And you aren't alone in your identification with the meanings.

While it was awesome for me, I am not sure what Cody made of it all. He does not know the lyrics to any of the songs except for Throwing My Arms Around Paris. Although I think he appreciated it, it was not great fun for him. He really did have a hard time staying on his feet.

Therefore, we ended up leaving a little early so that I could get my coat easily from the coat check and we could get out of the parking lot without hassles. On our way out, I spotted the performer from Strangelove who impersonates Martin Gore. He had on an amazing outfit and he kindly let me take a photo with him. Wish you could see his shoes in the photo.

We complemented his voice since he really does have a fantastic one, only to learn later that he is a classically trained opera singer. I am glad we complemented him, but he probably knows this already.
Me with Brent, otherwise known as Martin

Love Ya, Jose. But . . .
I only have one tiny bit of criticism for Jose of Sweet and Tender Hooligans: when addressing a crowd from the OC, instead of changing the words in Hairdresser on Fire from "all around Sloane Square" to "all around Manhatten Beach", maybe say "Newport Beach" instead. Its not a big deal, but it shows awareness of our plight as people in the OC. Trust me, we exist and have existed next to some snobby- ass rich people. You don't need to drive clear to Los Angeles to find them!

Dance with Morrissey
I began to think of my Morrissey fantasy. Strange as it may sound I just want to dance with him in that twisty Smiths/80s kind of way. Perhaps one day . . .
Inspired Dancing by Jose Maldonado

Not So Shriney
So. it was interesting finding out that Moz did not enjoy singing to a "mass of hair" at the Shrine-according to True to You.net. Morrissey's official website. I was so overjoyed to simply be there and then wondered why there was no encore. Well, I know now. Its understandable. Interesting to get a new perspective.

Merry Christmas
My family had a very Merry Christmas and hope you did too! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Am I Still Well?

Oliver at Anaheim Stadium for CIF Championship game Tustin vs. El Toro

 I have quite a few things to talk about this week. Firstly, I am off school for the holidays. Friday was our last day. Although we are off from school, we have been busy doing fun things. Unfortunately, Miguel and Oliver got sick. That was the only bad thing. Somehow, I have not become sick . . . yet. I eyed the Airborne in the cupboard a minute ago and I think it might be a good idea to take it.

Meat is Still Murder
Secondly, I finally gave up eating meat altogether. I have never been a big fan of meat, but I feel disgusted when I think of the loss of life. In all honesty, I think that writing this blog about my feelings on the issue after seeing the Morrissey gig, kind of did it for me. It emblazoned my feelings on the meat industry and animal rights and then gave me the will to give it up. My new motto: LIFE TASTES GOOD!

Young the Giant (Still)
Roland and I went to the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana to see Young the Giant. It was a perfect night to see them as they are all from the OC and it was the last night of their tour this year-although they play the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles in February. Another reason it was a perfect night to see them is because the concert was actually a benefit for the Irvine Public Schools Foundation. The proceeds help to keep music programs up in the public schools in the Irvine area. What a generous gift of their time and talents!

You may (or may not) recall that Morrissey likes this band saying they have 
"the perfect tone ... and Sameer's voice is unbreakable. If there is any justice in the world (and we all know there isn't) Young The Giant will own most of it by August. It's so easy to fire out remnants of snobbery where new music is concerned (in fact, I find it VERY easy), but once every three thousand years, a band comes along who restore that precious component of faith. Had I the gift of adequate words I would express more than mere thanks."

Because it was a "hometown" gig, we had special treats. High school friends and orchestra members came up to play a song. Also, there was a competition between classes in the three different high schools in the Irvine district to use a song by Young the Giant in an advertising campaign for the foundation. We were able to see the winner. Great job, high school kids! But the most important reason for the hometown gig being so very good, was that the audience was so into it-after all, they are OC heroes!!!

It was a charity event for public schools, so there were many teachers as far as I could tell. Whenever I saw anyone looking slightly middle-aged and wearing comfortable shoes, I suggested to Roland that they were teachers. Who knows? They could have been record executives, I guess. Dare I mention the fact that they were in all likelihood, saying the exact same thing about me?

To drive the point home even further, I saw a student that I had last year in my senior AP class. I grabbed her hand as she walked by. But I can't say whether or not she recognized me. It was undeniably dark in The Galaxy and she was probably wondering what in the hell this middle aged woman was doing. She looked embarrassed. So, either she was embarrassed because she did not know what to say since she did not recognize me or else she really didn't want to recognize me. I mean, she was holding hands with a guy-possibly a boyfriend. Let's face it, you don't exactly grow in estimation in the musician/band/gig goer circles when you are best buddies with a high school English teacher.

I forgive her.
Back to the actual gig. It was energetic and lively. Again, lots of kids. The opening act was a band called Tapioca and the Flea. They, too, were lively and fun. Very different. I wasn't sure what to make of them. The lead singer looks like your average  guy you might see at the grocery store and then he moves his butt around and sings groovy lyrics into a microphone. Fun. The only thing I did not like at times was the distortion of the vocals. It was different, but I could not understand the lyrics at all. I just wanted to be able to at least know what the refrain was.

As far as the lead act, as I stated before, it was a home town gig so they did not need to win the crowd over. The audience just anticipated what the next song was going to be and sang along in unison. As Morrissey more eloquently said, Sameer's voice is strong and amazing. The rest of the band is obviously very talented. Great tuneful melodies.

Here is a recording somebody there made. No doubt a young person barely hanging on to her camera but it gives the feel of being there rather accurately.

Other News Still

Tustin High School's football team has won the CIF Championship. We attended the final game at Angel Stadium and were not expected to win at all. Our team was awesome. Really proud of those kids. First championship win since 1948.

You may not know this. While Irvine hails Young the Giant, we (Tustin) have the most former NFL players from our school than any other school in the nation. I know it isn't academic. But its interesting. I have a good friend and fellow English teacher who has stopped teaching to write a book about our coach. I am excited for her and, well, slightly jealous.

My day will come. My day will come!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shine at the Shrine

Morrissey from our actually awesome seats at the Shrine in Los Angeles
 My Evening with Morrissey (and a few other people)
I have to disappoint you this time. Nothing bizarre occurred on our drive to Los Angeles to see . . . BUM BUM BUM BUM . . . HIM. It was totally uneventful. Roland and I had a very necessary conversation about Enrique's grades that have dropped a little. (Although, he likes to be called Joe now).I will not bore you with it, but even had we glanced up, we would have seen nothing but cars, trees and lights. Not a sign of Jesus this time.

We did see a lot of USC fans when we exited the freeway.

We arrived early. I knew we needed to since UCLA and USC were playing in a football game and they are HUGE rivals so it was pretty busy along the road. We parked up and then made our way downstairs to the street and to find a bite to eat.

We ended up at an Italian place to eat. It was one of those places that is kind of like fast food, but isn't, where you have to place your order and then they bring it to your table but the food is not cheap and horrible like in a real fast food place. You got the sense that it was family owned and not a part of a huge chain. So it had kind of neighborhood charm, if you know what I mean.

USC vs. Morrissey
When we made our way to the Shrine, we saw quite clearly that all the people in black were heading to the Shrine to see Morrissey and all the people in red and yellow were headed to the Colosium to see the game. It was almost striking as we turned the corner and the USC people kept going straight.

I was probably the only Morrissey fan wearing USC colors. Silly me. I did not even realize when I left.

Waiting at the Shrine in USC red (me)
The Building
The Shrine has in interesting history and like most historic buildings, is lovely to look at. I did not take a photo because I only had my phone with no flash so its kind of difficult to take decent pictures. To take a good picture I would also need to be further away from it-not standing right in front of it.

Its actually a building that houses a branch of the Masonic Temple, which was why there was a huge picture of a man wearing a fez on the wall when we walked in. I tried to take a picture but it did not come out very well because it was one of those pictures that has a light behind it. Again, I had poor photo equipment. Anyway, part of King Kong was filmed in the theater and the Academy Awards were held here for a time as well. The Shrine has been there since the 1920s, which isn't very long if you are from Europe but undeniably long if you are from California.

Don't Leave Home With . . .
Before we entered the Shrine there was a huge list of things we were not allowed to bring in the venue, I mean HUGE. Basically, you could bring your wallet and some lipstick. I had some Halloween candy in my purse and I had to throw it away-it was for Oliver. I also had to throw away my water but I gave it to a palm tree who might have been thirsty. Then I had to be frisked in case I brought in any contraband, This was another reason it was good to get there early. I can't even imagine how long the wait would have been to get in when they had to frisk people one at a time. They had more than one line, but still. It was sold out and the venue holds over 6000 people! Eeek!

 7" Vinyl
We shaed a glass-or plastic cup-of wine before looking over the PETA table. They had some cool stickers so I stuck on a Meat is Murder sticker since I thought it was most appropriate. Then I wanted to check out the merchandise. Here is where I show I am not that great of a fan since I did not buy anything. It came at the end of the month before Christmas and I have three kids. I just didn't see the point. Roland and I laughed because there was a huge cardboard cut out of Morrissey naked except a 7" vinyl record that was autographed and someone asked where it was signed. The guy working had to look it over so carefully to find where Morrissey had signed it. We thought it would be great if the 7" vinyl were removable Velcro and he had signed it under the record.

One piece of merchandise I loved was the shopping bag that said, "Shop lifters of the world unite." But I just did not want to spend money I don't really have. Perhaps I should have done the most ironic thing and shop shoplifted the bag.

Our Seats
I knew we were in the nose bleed section and that there is no way that I would make any sort of eye contact with Morrissey from where I was, but it turned out that while we were up on the balcony, we were just above where the man who operates the projector was set up. There was nothing in front of us, therefore, when other people were standing, we were able to see perfectly. We even had an iron bar in front of us to lean on. Life is good.

Shrine on
 We were earthquakingly close to the giant chandalier. Didn't want to think about it.

Kristeen Young
I love getting to a gig early not just to take in the atmosphere and avoid ugly traffic, but to see the opening act. In this case it was a beautiful and talented woman by the name of Kristeen Young. She is kind of avant garde in her demeanor and yet kind of retro. I am mainly referring to her appearance but perhaps the same can be said for her music although only those two words could not do her justice.

I feel kind of sorry for the opening act. After all, most of the time people aren't there to see them. They are like the appetizer to a large entree. And out walked this extremely brave woman playing keyboards on her own with no band. Just her and her voice.

It was kind of 80s like Kate Bush, I guess. An amazing voice. When I saw that she just had keyboards I grew concerned. The last time I saw a solo performer with keyboards was at Tiangle Square in Costa Mesa with Roland. There was a kind of sad closet musician playing electronica from the 80s. Bad electronica in a sad voice. It was like he had been locked away in his room listening to the stuff he was singing and decided to venture out one night on a whim. He mustered up enough courage to perform live (for free) at this soon to be abandoned shopping center. The people in charge probably thought they'd give the place one last hurrah before bailing. Anyway, you get the picture of my hesitation towards Kristeen Young.

She was fun to watch and she had some incredible songs lyrically and musically. This may not sound like a complement but she was not sad at all. She was energetic. Big contrast from Sad 80s Man.

Video Treat
While Kristeen was putting away her keyboards, etc., we were treated to some videos from the past-no doubt either chosen by our hero or else selected by someone who knows his taste well. Some of the artists were The New York Dolls, and Bridget Bardot. It culminated with an interview with author Shelagh Delany who recently passed away. She wrote the screenplay for the movie A Taste of Honey and she is a prime influence in Morrissey's life. I can't remember all of the artists since its been a few days now (I am writing this portion on 12/5). I can tell you that it was getting us filled with anticipation to see Morrissey. We knew he was up next. 

The Main Course
I can't tell you how happy I was to finally see Morrissey. There he was. Only 100 feet away from me. I thought about how long I have wanted to see him, be in the same room-all the near misses-and there I was. There we were. 

I don't want to go through the set list because I think that's pretty boring. But he started appropriately with I Want the One I Can't Have. Its difficult to pass unbiased judgment on your hero. I mean, he could have sauntered in and sang horribly off key and told me to go screw myself and I probably would have thought it was amazing. But he wasn't anywhere near that. The first song was quite energetic which was perfect since we had pent up energy ready to unfold with all our anticipation.

Oddly enough, as he was singing this first song, one of my colleagues from Tustin High happened to be there sitting nearby and she saw us and said hello. I am pretty amazed because the Shrine was sold out. We were packed into our seats like sardines. Hmm. Maybe if she saw me, Morrissey did!

I think the most memorable songs for me were Throwing My Arms Around Paris, Satellite of  Love, and Meat is Murder. But every song had something in the performance that made it special. Satellite of Love is a song by Lou Reed (of The Velvet Underground). I just like the way Morrissey sings it. Then, Meat is Murder, well, its just a powerful song. I couldn't actually watch the images in the background. I know they were images of slaughterhouses and what happens to your "food" before it arrives in your kitchen or on your plate. I just can't look. Some people were offended by Morrissey's comments about Thankskilling, but if you are there to see Morrissey you should know his stand on this issue. What harm is there in knowing where your food comes from? Perhaps we would be more grateful on Thanksgiving if we knew the sacrifices animals endured for our consumption. Its something we have a responsibility to think about.

Typically, Morrissey performs no more than an hour and a half. He says because his voice begins to get thrashed since he does all the singing pretty much. Its too hard on his vocal chords. So, he stopped and sadly there was no encore. I think it may have been because the security was not keeping most people off the stage during the last song Still Ill. No encore-no shirtless Morrissey tossing his sweaty shirt to the crowd although he did change his shirt. Good intentions, but no follow through.

Roland and I just sat in our seats starring at the stage as people began to clear it. Mouths agape. Lights on. Finally a security man reminded us that we needed to leave now. So we did.

To Mal or Not to Mal
Although we were tired, I wanted to attend an after concert event near the Shrine at a place called Mal's. It was DJed by Jose Maldonado, who heads a great Smiths cover band and a radio show on Indie 103. Roland was not interested, but I felt like, Hell, we've got a babysitter. When was the last time I stayed out until 12? But when we arrived in a very secluded part of town-complete with industrial businesses and trash containers perfect for tossing bodies, we discovered that we did not have money for the cover charge. No ATM close enough and we did not want to fight that USC traffic so we hopped on the freeway and headed homeish.

I was beaming even days after. It was such a memorable event for me.

On one of the Morrissey pages on Facebook someone posted that Morrissey had been to The Olde Shippe in Santa Ana (very close to me). I guess I would have felt worse had I not been to the concert. After all, I suspect its possible, just barely possible he was looking right at me . . .

Someone with better seats filmed the concert. Here is Satellite of Love:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Because I Never

Villasenor garage at their Rancho Grande in Oceanside, CA

Snowgoose Festival
So, I am off to see Morrissey in less than a week's time and I am exceedingly excited about it. Yet, in all my excitement I still find time to enjoy other aspects of my life-you will be pleased to know (I hope).

We are out of school for a whole week and although I was happy to be out of school, I was looking forward with lazy anticipation to a field trip to Oceanside with some of my high school students and fellow teachers to the Villasenor home. Yes, I was invited. But this was not a small dinner party. No, it was a very big dinner party! I say "lazy" anticipation because although I looked forward to it, the idea of spending my vacation day with students on a rainy day just did not have a lot of appeal.I love my students, so I think I can safely say that they must have felt the same.

What is it?
"What the heck is the Snowgoose Festival?" You may ask. Let me tell you. (Sounds like a lead in to a song in a musical).It is a one day a year event where we the people come together to celebrate and practice World Peace and Harmony. This is based on the belief and understanding that there is just one race-the human race. This was also possible because the Villasenor Family opened their home and property up to everyone who wanted to come. They do this every year.

The Villasenors
Your next question might be, "Who are the Villasenors?" There is a long and a short answer to this but I will give you the short answer. To understand really who this amazing family is, you will need to read some books. If you love to read, you will love this task. If you do not love to read, give it a try anyway! The short answer: Victor Villasenor is the author of many books that you should read. The most celebrated, I think, is Rain of Gold. The reason for that is a miniseries for HBO is underway. This book is about Victor's parents and their struggles in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. I confess, I have not read this book yet, but I look forward to it since my Great-grandmother came from the same state as Victor's mother in Chihuahua, Mexico. She came to this country in 1917. Around the same time period. She did not speak too much about it to us so this is a chance for me to learn what it must have been like. By the way, she is who I am named after-Andrea.

Burro Genius
The book my students are currently reading is Burro Genius. We are reading as a class. I had a thought provoking question while waiting for food at the potluck. A man in line asked me what I wanted my students to get out of that book. And I have to say I did not have a clear answer. Later, I was in line to have a book signed by the author and I heard him tell a young girl who was crying about how moved she was when she read this book, and Victor said, "Its about getting your ass kicked. Have you ever had your ass kicked? Did you learn a great deal? When you get your ass kicked you learn a lot." Most of my students have had their asses kicked in some way. Most of my students are Latino. So, the purpose for me is to show them that you can learn a lot from your bad experiences and its important to read books by Latino authors. They need to see that our people can write well and be successful. Yeah, I say our people because as you know, I look white but I am a half breed. So when people ask me which half is Mexican, I point to my heart.

I should also mention that Victor was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his book Lion Eyes. I have not read this either. But it must be good!

Home Tour
We were able to tour the Villasenor home for $5-the donation goes to the Snowgoose Foundation. Maribel and Cheryl (both colleagues) and I were in line for food when they announced the tour. We eagerly bypassed the food and went to the tour. This was a great choice because there were only about eight people and the tour was conducted by Barbara Martinez, one of the script writers for the HBO miniseries. I did not take any pictures. I wish I had but I felt strange taking pictures of some body's house that is still being lived in. But if I had, I could have posted them here. All I can say is that Victor has a great room to write in and there are some amazing views from the home. It would have been better if the trailer park had not been there, but it was still nice. Barbara knew a lot-A LOT!! It was one of the most interesting features of the day. When we left the tour there were nearly 70 people lined up to see the home. As I said earlier, we made a good choice!

Some of the featured entertainment
There was a lot of great entertainment that I missed for the most part. I was either in line for food (that I did not eat) or on the house tour (which was why I did not eat). At one point while we were on the tour, we heard screaming and Barbara paused for a moment and said, "I was worried at the sound of screaming because I thought someone got hurt. But it's only Victor." Yes, by the way, he is not your typical reclusive writer personality. He's out there-totally. But the thing that makes him so cool is his awareness about perhaps seeming a bit metaphysical and "out there." You can't be crazy if you know you are crazy. Although I am not insinuating that he is crazy. Okay, crazy in the very best way possible. I'd rather describe him as passionate.

Book Signing
So, after we exited the tour I high-tailed it to the food line which no longer existed and grabbed a few taquitos and some beans and inhaled it. I think it was good. I am not sure if I tasted it. Then I quickly bought a book called Walking Stars. I actually longed to buy Rain of Gold but they did not take credit cards and I only had $20 on me when the book cost $25. The book I purchased cost $10 and I already finished it. It was an enjoyable read and it made me want to read Rain of Gold even more.

So Maribel and I got in line to have our books signed and I had the opportunity to ask Victor a question. I asked him basically how he finds the time to write being so very busy because I am a teacher and I want to write but its hard to find time. He said, "Have you seen the movie Billy Elliot?" I said I had and he said, "He just danced. He didn't consider that he did not have time. Or August Rush. Have you seen that?" I said no this time. He said, "That's another good one. I wake up at 2 AM," I responded, "That's a good time." I was thinking of how quiet it is and how I used to wake up at that time to nurse Oliver.
Tarnishing the holiness of that thought, he asked, "How do you find time to go the bathroom?" I laughed and I said, "That's a good analogy." By this time I was beginning to walk away just because there was a line and I didn't want to make all the other eager people wait. He then said, "What happens if you don't use the bathroom?" I said, Something really horrible and embarrassing."  He and some of the other people laughed. I then shook his hand and thanked him for his time.

I felt kind of embarrassed to ask that question and when you think of it, for a real writer that's a ridiculous question. Nevertheless, its one I have struggled with. That's part of the reason I write this blog, albeit not as frequently as I would like. It also made me like and appreciate my cat a lot more. Bonnie infamously wakes me up at an ungodly hour. Perhaps she wants me to write.

I also have an idea for a book so I guess, sleep deprivation be damned! I will be waking up early from now on.

I regret that I did not get my picture with him. I took Maribel's picture with Victor but did not get my own. When she mentioned it, the next person was already talking to Victor so I did not want to interfere. Ah well, it lives in my memory. Next time I will get my picture.

Gregorio Nava
I then set my fanatic admiration upon Gregorio Nava who is working on the screenplay for the miniseries of Rain of Gold. He was also the MC for the Snowgoose event. Anyway, he directed one of my favorite movies El Norte, wrote the screenplay for Frida as well as some other amazing works. He also signed Walking Stars. He was incredibly sweet and just took time to say hello. I appreciated it in a big way.

It was getting nearly time for the bus to take us all back to Tustin and I had not introduced myself to Linda, Victor's sister. We had some long conversations last year when I was organizing a book signing event featuring Victor. She was awesome and she was so interested and concerned about the boys when they came to join our family. I felt like she was a friend so I wanted to greet her. I think she would have liked to have met Roland, Oliver, Enrique and Miguel but no one was available. Oliver and Miguel chose to spend time at Grandma's. Roland and Enrique were at an MUN (Model United Nations) conference. I am hoping to work more with Linda regarding a grant that is being written in hopes of bringing Victor back to Tustin High. Anyway, Linda was just as gracious in person as she had been on the phone and through email. She was wearing red boots and a red jacket so she was easy to find even though I did not know what she looked like. Linda also does some communication for Victor on Facebook since he does not "do" computers.

Go Tillers!
Before we left, Gregorio Nava had all of the kids from Tustin up on the stage. I joined them while Maribel and Cheryl did not. I probably looked like a dork but it would not be the first time! It was fun for the kids to be recognized. Gregorio asked what our mascot is for Tustin High and he did not understand what a Tiller is (we are the only school in the country with this mascot). When the students informed him that we are essentially farmers he recognized the value of our mascot. Much better than things lke cougars and falcons and centurians, etc. Just on a side note: we have more graduates in the NFL than any other high school in the nation. In addition to being recognized Mr. Nava encouraged our students to read Rain of Gold and said he would like to get their impessions once they have read it. He asked for my email in order to find out what they think of the book which I gave to him without question.

On the Bus
Once on the bus, we asked the kids if they'd had a good time. We certainly had no idea since we barely spent any time with them. Almost in unison the responded, "Yes!" They said they would do it again. We were so impressed. I think we had around 30 kids. This was on a Sunday of Thanksgiving week and we are on vacation. Only about three kids did not show up. And it was raining and cold.

Shake Your Booty
The students told me that while we were on the home tour, they had seen some entertainment they had never seen before and they loved it. Also, Victor grabbed them and made them go out and dance. This must have meant a lot to them.

I have a big thank you to the Villasenor Family for welcoming us and making us feel at home. Thank you. Gracias.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Let Me Take You Down 2

The Pepper Pot

So, several weekends ago I showed my dad all the pictures from our holiday, and he quite literally was falling asleep. I can only imagine the boredom my little travel anecdotes create. I shall persevere in the knowledge that no one has to read this. They can look at the pictures and then move on. I totally understand.

By the way, I know there are riots in London and Liverpool. And I know that Morrissey made some controversial statements (again). But I have a blog to write. I know it should seemingly be about Morrissey, but I reserve the right not to write about him. Besides, he seems to have effectively defended his statements. I am not trying to make light of the seriousness by seemingly brushing it aside.

Isle of Wight Continued
Above you see the photo of the Pepper Pot. This was originally a beacon used like a lighthouse might be used and part of a monastery. A monastery that was dissolved due to Henry VIIIs dissolving relationship with the Catholic Church. We walked up the hill and had a fantastic view of the island as you can kind of make out in the photo. My camera and I are not able to take pictures like Ansel Adams but I think you get the idea,

It was near a place called Blackgang Chine, which was a place where pirates would hide their booty. I asked Roland about seeing it and it is falling into the sea. Although it is falling into the sea, there is a roller coaster that is near the edge somewhere. So as I was taking pictures of the Pepper Pot, I was hearing the terrifying screams from the roller coaster. 
St. Catharine's Lighthouse

St. Catharine's Lighthouse
Roland made us go to the lighthouse. It sounded okay to me, I have to admit. But it turned out to be one of the best things we did on the Isle of Wight. They conduct free tours of the lighthouse. Our guide was excellent. We climbed all the way to the top which was a little unnerving, but satisfying in the end.  He told us about the lighthouse being bombed in WW2 and the fact that the keepers died. There is a photograph taken by the German pilot who bombed it seconds before it hit. This intrigued the boys and began a conversation about WW2 on the walk back to the car.

Peace at Quarr Abby
Quarr Abbey
Quarr Abbey is an interesting place. But I simply do not want to bore you with too many details. The abbey is in Binstead, where Roland's parents live and we were able to walk there very easily. It is near the site of the old abbey in which our dear King Henry VIII tore down. The original site is now a farm house with sheep and cows but a new one has been built nearby. Basically, monks fled to France and then came back in the 1920s to rebuild. They did and it is a lovely place. We had tea and coffee there after our walk and then browsed the bookstore.

Debs, Stu, and Zara at the Castle

A Night Out
Roland and I were lucky enough to go out one night in Newport and see Duncan play music at the Castle pub. Thanks to Charlie and the boys' good behaviour, we were able to steal away for a few hours. Duncan quite often posts invitations to gigs that we cannot attend for obvious reasons. So it was a special treat to see him in person. By the way, Roland used to play in a band with Duncan (that is how we met).  We went out with Debs, Stu and Zara and met some very nice people including a friend named Vicky and another named Ben.

Bembridge Mill
Bembridge Windmill
The Isle of Wight is home to an old windmill and we decided to have a close look at this landmark. Not much to tell but we had a nice picnic lunch beforehand and took the boys in to see what a windmill actually does besides turn in the wind.

Happy Anniversary
So one of the main reasons we came to old blighty in the first place was to attend Roland's parents Golden Wedding Anniversary.It was on Patsy's birthday, July 4. If you look at the table setting you will see American flags. This was a great night out. It was at a place called Albert Cottage which is very near Osborne House and was once used by Victoria's royal family. This was a wonderful time spent with family and friends of the family, including David and Diana who we stayed with later on our trip.

Isle of Wight spook
Ghost Walk
One of the last things we did on the Isle of Wight was a ghost walk in Newport. I wasn't really sure about it, to be honest. I thought it would be really lame with fake ghosts and so on. We thought Oliver might be too young for this and I am glad he did not go, so he stayed at Debs and Stu's and Roland came round to visit Duncan and Libby. Zara and Charlie came along and it made it more fun for me, Enrique and Miguel. There was a lot of history included of course. And the ghost stories were great. But our guide, Marc, had obviously hired some kids to act out the parts of ghosts. They were extremely funny. Seriously, one of them was in the midst of trying to scare people and he got up and walked into a wall probably because he couldn't see because of his outfit. It was kind of a mixture of laughter and screaming for about two hours. Very Monty Python.

It was also interesting for us since Zara had a personal experience with one of the ghosts mentioned on the tour. Francesca.

Stonehenge under menacing sky
So we left the IOW after two great weeks and headed for the North. On our way to Liverpool we stopped off at Stonehenge. It was raining off and on and a little bit cold but it was the perfect way to see it. I mean, it was so Druid-like.  
Liverpool was a great visit for a few reasons. Firstly, we stayed at a self-catering farm called The Barn. And indeed, our little place was a renovated barn. We even had chickens and sheep at the barn. The toilet was not easy to flush so that created a problem-embarrassing for some. Secondly, we were able to see my friends Andy and Moe. I have known Moe for a number of years. She is from Wisconsin originally and then moved to California like fifteen years ago. We pretty much clicked from the word go and had many funny times together at The Harp in Costa Mesa back in the day. Andy is from Liverpool and they decided to settle there for a while with Henry, their newest addition. I did not get any pictures of Henry, I am sorry to say. He was so adorable I only wanted to hold him, not take his picture. Plus, he was in various stages of sleep whenever I saw him.Thirdly, if you know me at all you know that while I am a Smiths/Morrissey fan, I am also a Beatle fan. Many years ago I went to Liverpool and did the Magical Mystery Beatle Tour and saw the homes, etc. of the Beatles. When I returned home, my mother infamously opened her camera that I had borrowed to remove the film (you know how long ago this took place now) and destoyed all my photographs from Liverpool. Hilariously, she took a last photo of me to finish off the film and that survived. So somewhere there is a sweaty picture of me fresh off a twelve hour flight looking impatient because I most likely wanted to go to bed before starting work the next day.

So, yeah. I did drag the kids to see the Magical Mystery Tour but I don't think it was any less boring for them than a Medieval castle or an art gallery. It was very detailed, yes. But it simply had to be done. The best thing was that Moe came along and we had some time to chat in the bus.

During our stay, Oliver got very into Superlambananas, which are these artistic creatures desgined by a Japanese artist and only found in Liverpool. Whenever we encountered one, Oliver had to take his picture with it and he was constantly looking for new ones. I got him a book which kept him occupied for hours.

Oliver and Superlambanana
Andy's mom bravely watched all the kids, including Henry, and Roland and I were able to have a beer or two with Andy, Moe and Sally, Andy's sister at a pub on Penny Lane. (Very strange). But fun! I miss Moe and Andy.

So, the next day we drove up to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was about a four hour drive-you know, just long enough to hear choruses of, "Are we almost there yet?" repeated for two hours of the journey. Hilariously, as we passed the border into Scotland, it began to rain-a lot!
Edinburgh when the sun was shining
It rained all the way into Edinburgh and while we arrived and then even when we were searching for a place to eat dinner. We settled on an warm Italian restaurant with kind of slow service-but what did it matter? We got to eat. Because service was so slow, Roland stayed in the restaurant until the bill came and I went for a stroll with the boys. We walked to the corner facing Edinburgh Castle and suddenly the rain stopped and the sun was shining on the city. It was lovely.

We did in Edinburgh what we did in London-we took an open top bus tour to get an overview of the city. After the tour, we lunched at a place called The Elephant Cafe (or something like that). This is where JK Rowling wrote some of the first Harry Potter books. I could see how it would be a great place to write as it overlooks the castle and has that warm, coffeehouse feel. We also went to Edinburgh Castle which was enormous and wonderful as you would probably expect. Looking back, we should have done the castle first thing because it was crowded by the time we got there.We ended our first day with a tour of Holyrood House which is where the queen stays when in Edinburgh. It was the end of the day so we were pretty tired when we got there, we had about an hour left before it closed. We kind of hurried through it but it was good because when you have kids you just don't have the attention span you might have had otherwise.

Salisbury Crags
The second day in Edinburgh we climbed Salisbury Crag and I think Arthur's Seat which are hills in Edinburgh. We wanted to burn some calories and also to experience a bit of nature. We were treated to some beautiful scenery and fantastic views of the city. The hill was really wet though, and Enrique had zero traction on his sneakers so he fell about seven times-I fell once and I was wearing my sandals. My theory is that the Romans climbed those hills in sandals and they did fairly well, so why not me?

Royal Britannia
We were kind of tired but still went to the geological museum which had a great interactive exhibit called Mother Earth. I was on the war path for any kind of seating but the kids were interested in the exhibit so it was kind of relaxing. We had lunch and then we trekked to the Royal Britannia-the Queen's former yacht. I have to admit that by the time we got to the Royal Brittania, we were kind of blase about seeing royal thngs. We had seen so much and it was interesting, but it loses its affect after a while. Still, I look back on it now and am glad that we saw it.

We drove up to Durham after leaving Scotland. It was not too far-not as far as we had been traveling. Durham was special because it is where Roland went to University. He has always said he wanted to take me to see it and we finally had our chance. Our first day there we only had time to have dinner. Oddly enough we ended up eating at a Tex Mexican Restaurant. I found that quite often in Britain, that they could not simply have a Mexican restaurant-it had to be Tex Mex-which is code word for "we don't really know how to make true Mexican food, so we added some spice and rice and beans" restaurant. However, I cannot complain. I had mac and cheese and it was awesome. It was spicey and not at all like any Mexican food I have ever had but it was excellent. The boys and Roland would say the same, I am sure. The proprietor was pleased that Enrique and Miguel enjoyed it since they actually are Mexican.

The next day we went in to explore the cathedral and the universtity-although we did not see too much of the university. We saw a lot of the huge, impressive cathedral and saw the final resting place for the Venerable Bede. We spent about a morning there before heading off to David and Diana's house in Buntingford.

Buntingford and More of London
Buntingford was awesome mainly because we stayed with David and Diana, Roland's godparents, who are the among the best hosts anyone could ever hope to meet. Diana served chocolate with every meal, which certainly edeared her to the hearts of the kids. Really. Where could you go wrong?

We spent about four days there and during that time went into London at least twice. We drove to Cockfosters and then took the tube into London. Its actually a lot harder than it sounds when someone gets in the train tracks and causes bus routes to get rerouted and its hot and muggy. Ugh! On the day we met Duncs, Zara, Charlie and Libby, we did not meet up with them until midday at the Tower of London. So we did a whirlwind tour of the tour seeing the jewels and a few other things like the Bloody Tower and the rack and other various instruments of torture.

Smth-Joneses on the Eye
The highlight of that day, however, was the London Eye. We waited a long time-nearly two hours-but the view was spectacular and it gave us a lot of time to take lots of pictures.

I have yet to make a T-shirt for Duncan as we came up the idea of making one that says, "I Survived the London Eye Queue!"

We had a bite to eat at a nice place nearby before we had to part ways knowing we will not see each other for a very long time.

London Again, and Finally
We went back to London the next day and visited Trafalgar Square, Hamley's and The Globe Theatre-although we did not go into the Globe or see a play there-not a good idea with tired pre-teens and children under 11. Not good when you are tired and above the age of 40 either. We went  back to David and Diana's and were spoiled with a wonderfully huge meal and dessert.
Bridge to the Globe, and St. Paul's

Duxford American Hangar
While at David and Diana's, we were taken to Duxford where David is a volunteer and therefore knows many details about the many fighter planes at this air museum. There are many different hangars filled with various planes from everywhere. The most noticeable and impressive to me (and I may be biased here) was the American hangar. This featured many planes and memorabilia from World War II fighter planes. My other favorite was a World War II hangar. The reason it was my favorite was not because of what was in it so much as the memories it brought back to David and Diana who were both children living in the London area during the time period. They were able to share their experiences and make the time period come alive for all of us. The two older boys were bored up until that time. Oliver loves planes but perhaps overwhelmed at a certain point. Its just one of those experiences that I am sure they will look upon later as most impressive as time passes.

Saying Good-bye
David and Diana went out of their way to make us feel totally at home. It was lovely just to hang around Buntingford and spend time together. They also took me to my new favorite store called John Lewis. I know, as an American when I hear that name I think of a civil rights activist from the 1960s but its actually an awesome store I became acquainted with in Liverpool and then David and Diana drove me to the one in Cambridge so that I could purchase some tea spoons. We just don't seem to have them around here so much although since that time, I have seen them at Ikea.

Anyway, they took us bowling and for Mexican food with their daughter and her family just before we left. We had a nice time and the boys enjoyed playing with other kids who are not related to them.

Then we left for our hotel room near the airport at Heathrow to meet up with Nana and Pops before our departure.

We met up with Nana and Pops and had dinner in the evening and some wine to celebrate a great visit.

Our last moments with Nana and Pops in Windsor
The next morning Roland and the boys had to leave. The took an earlier flight because when we booked the flights, we did not have the necessary permission to take the boys yet. So Roland ended up purchasing tickets for just Oliver and me until that paper work came through. By that time, he could not get us all on the same flight home.

Nana and Pops drove us to Windsor for the afternoon and dropped us off at the airport. It was interesting because Oliver really did not want to go anywhere with Nana and Pops or without them. Then when we waved good-bye he became very emotional and said that he missed them. Yet, he hardly said anything the entire afternoon.

I forgot to mention our trip to York. I believe we were there after Edinburgh or Durham. I  cannot remember. Anyway, we went to the National Train Museum-which was awesome for Oliver. And we did a couple of walking tours. The first one was a ghost tour, which paled in comparison to the one in Newport. The only thing I actually remember is some American or Aussie girl telling her traveling companion, " . . . and for my birthday he gave me gonorrhea." A very odd thing to say on a ghost tour!

So here I am several months later. I have neglected this blog due to work and familial obligations. However, the good news is that Roland and I have tickets to see Morrissey in November. I shall try to be better about updating from now on!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let Me Take You Down

Me at Strawberry Fields (in case you hadn't guessed)
Trying to squeeze detail in describing our month long holiday is like trying to eat a seven layer sandwich. It looks and sounds really good but impossible to actually eat. So you have to break it apart.

During our eleven hour plane ride home, I gave it a lot of thought-about how I was going to organize my blog. I thought that sections would be good because I have this theory that people don't really like reading long blogs. So if I were to break it up into sections, readers could just find the section they are interested in and skip or skim the rest.

Silly antics on the plane
A Very Good Place to Start
Let's start with the plane ride to London. Not much to tell except that Oliver and I had to fly separately from Roland and the boys. We got kind of lucky. We flew on Virgin Airlines in their 747 which has an upstairs economy area (just behind the envious first class). This meant several things: we were served food more quickly, it was warmer than the rest of the plane (which could be good or bad, depending on your personal needs) and this also meant that Oliver was excited simply because we were higher up. He also got a window seat thanks to a lady that was in our row of three seats. She could just see that Oliver wanted the window so she sat in the aisle and Oliver had a window.

I was able to read virtually more than half of Patti Smith's Just Kids while Oliver watched videos and cartoons. This book is an extremely well-written account of Patti's relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. I have to admire her artistic spirit. I mean, it takes a lot to believe in your craft so much that you are willing to sacrifice so much for it. Food, shelter, etc. It appears she has a supportive family though. That's got to help.The book also won the National Book Award so I am not the only one to sing its praises.

Jet Lagged Boys

Wightlink car ferry
Isle of Wight
We hired an estate car (a bigger car) at Heathrow and made our way to Portsmouth in order to catch the ferry to the island. If it doesn't sound exciting imagine you are a seven or twelve year old child. Its pretty cool. Even more cool was that Roland's parents, Nana and Pops, were at Portsmouth waiting for us and took the same ferry back to the island with us.

It took us a few days to get in the swing of things, so we had a day of rest and then Roland's sister, Debs, and her family, and Duncs, his brother and his family came over to Nana and Pops' (where we were staying) for a nice BBQ dinner. We had the chance to catch up and anticipate all the fun things we could do while we were there. I have to say that I love spending time with Roland's family. I know there are many people in the world who could not say that they enjoy their significant other's family. But its just like having friends round and you don't really want the evening to end-they are funny, cool and entertaining.

Oliver had not seen Libby, his cousin who is close in age, for a few years so they ran around like crazy and it was also a chance for  Miguel and Enrique to meet their new cousins, Charlie and Ben. In other words, it was an important evening that turned out to be a good time.

Brading Roman Villa
The first place we visited on the island was Brading Roman Villa. It was most likely the home of a wealthy farmer who lived on the Isle of Wight (the Romans called it Vectis) and who adopted much of the Roman style and way of life back in the day.

I think the most striking thing about it is the state of the mosaic tiles. They are still quite beautiful although they were constructed back around the second century AD. It had been discovered in 1879 and you may now visit the site and learn more about the British-Romano way of life.
Roman Tiles
I think the thing we enjoyed most however, was having a Minghella ice cream from the Minghella ice cream truck on the way to Brading. If you think you recognize the name-it may be that you remember a great movie director by the name of Anthony Minghella (Grange Hill, Inspector Morse, The English Patient, Talented Mr. Ripley). Well, he was from the island and it is his family who run the ice cream business. Fame and talent aside, they serve excellent ice cream in unusual flavors. For example, I had coconut (I know it isn't that unusual) and Roland had ginger flavor. I think the boys had something boring like chocolate but they raved about how good it was and every time we saw the truck they would longingly gaze at the little ice cream truck.
You scream I scream

Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle
Two other places we visited with significant historical value were Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle. Osborne House was the vacation home of Queen Victoria and her family. In fact, she died there in 1902. I don't want to bore you with a lot of historical detail  but the grounds were beautiful and it has been lovingly cared for by English Heritage. It was a great opportunity for the boys to learn more about Queen Victoria.

Carisbrooke Castle was one of the boy's favorite places we visited. We walked to the castle from Duncan and Zara's house. It is an enjoyable, scenic ten minute stroll to the top of the hill where the castle is. Enrique managed to fall into the moat but luckily it has been dried up for at least a hundred years.

This castle is where Charles I was held before he was executed (beheaded). While imprisoned there the king tried to escape but got stuck in the window. That had to be pretty humiliating.

Carisbrooke Castle
Another interesting tidbit is that the castle has a working well operated by donkey power. Very cute and sweet donkeys.

Island Games Parade and Compton Bay
We happened to be on the island during the Island Games which is an athletic event kind of like a mini Olympics between different island nations all over the world. The parade featured children and some adults dressed up in clothing themed to cover the history of the Isle of Wight. For example,Romans and pirates were some of the historical peoples represented. It ended with the athletes from each island marching past for them to receive a warm welcome.

Fun digging at Compton Bay
We also managed to go to Compton. Now, if you live in the Los Angeles area, you probably think of drive-by shootings, houses with bars on windows and liquor stores-places you don't want to be after dark when you are lost trying to find the 91 freeway. However, since my first visit to the IOW, Compton has retained a much more positive image for me. Its a cliffy, sandy beach with lovely water and fun people. I don't personally know all the fun people but Zara does and she is the one to go to the beach with if you want to meet the cool people. I got to be cool by association. We actually got a bit sunburned one of the three days we went.

Our Bus Around the Island
Yarmouth and the Needles
We decided that sitting on top of a double-decker bus would be a great way to see part of the island. The bus has a recorded narration as you cruise the island. It was kind of rainy that day so we couldn't take advantage of the open top part of the bus so much. But it was fun all the same.

The Needles

Driving up to the Needles atop a double-decker bus is kind of scary. There were some twists and turns that were quite impressive. In case you were wondering why these cliffs are called The Needles, you should know that there was once a long, needle-shaped rock out there which was destroyed in a storm back in 1769.

Entrance to the castle
Near the Needles are the Old Battery which was used during war time as a watch to protect from enemy ships. There was a display of its usage during the wars which was very informative. The New Battery houses rocket displays regarding The Black Knight which was tested but never launched from The Needles. It was successfully launched in Australia. Oddly enough, the British government did not think that rockets and satilliates were a good investment and abandoned the project.

Yarmouth Castle was next. Compared to Carisbrooke, it was not as popular with the boys. It was built by Henry VIII to guard Yarmouth Harbour most likely against the French. Henry VIII, we discovered, figured prominantly in many of the historic sights. As Miguel stated, "He must have been a powerful and important king."

Appuldurcombe is very deceiving. I thought it was a furnished  house much like Osborne. But instead, it is a shell. It has a beautiful exterior with lovely grounds perfect for taking photographs. In fact, I took quite a few shots of this house. It was a livable house back in 1100 AD as a priory until 1943. During World War 2, it had been used as a hospital. Supposedly it is the most haunted place on the island. And there are many haunted places on the Isle of Wight. The thing that lends to its creepiness factor is that it is in ruins and because it is deceiving. Its kind of like a scene from a horror movie where you hear beautiful organ music. You draw closer into a room where you see the back of  a womanly figure with long, blonde, beautiful hair playing the organ in the candlelight. The music stops. The figure turns around. It is a living skeleton. You scream in terror.

Appuldurcombe House
I think this house is that way. It looks so beautiful and lived in but as you get closer you discover it is only a skeleton of a building.

A Day Out in London
We took the ferry and train into London with Deb's and Stu. We just wanted the boys to get an overview of London.On my very first trip to London a hundred years ago, my friend, John, took me out atop a double decker bus tour and it has been something I do in a new town ever since. We thought (wisely) that when we returned to London later on our holiday, we could take them back to the places they wanted to see more of. They decided they like Trafalgar Square and The Globe. Oliver simply wanted to shop at Hamley's.

At Victoria Station, we saw the huge advertisement for the Hop Farm event. I know I had made my peace with the fact that I was not going to see Morrissey this trip. Yet seeing the sign was a cruel twist of fate.
So close, yet so far away
Hilariously, I also missed Morrissey televised live at the Glastonbury Festival.Stu told me about it. And then once I arrived back here in the US, I found it on YouTube.

I was just thinking that Morrissey is probably having a successful tour. But is he having as much fun without me?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Next Journey Begins

Jealousy in the eyes of the one who stayed behind
 I am feeling kind of overwhemlmed. The five of us leave tomorrow for the UK. A twelve hour plane journey awaits us and there is still so much to do before 2 PM tomorrow when we leave for LAX. I won't bore you with my To Do list, but let's just say that I like to come home to a clean house and we will  be gone for a month.

Today is Father's Day as well. That just adds to the overwhelming feeling. The pressure of gift giving combined with getting ready to travel can add to the anxiety.

Bonnie the Cat
I am also kind of concerned for Bonnie the Cat. She is going to miss us. Some people think that cats are easy because you can do things like go on long trips and they are easily cared for. Its true. You can easily feed and water a cat, but they too get lonely. Just like a dog, cats sense your impending trip as they sniff luggage and suspiciously peer behind stacks of clothes and shoes.

Bonnie further concerns me because she has not taken to her new automatic self-cleaning kitty box. We thought it would be more appealing for someone to look after her if they did not have to clean a cat box out every single day. I think it has kind of worked. My sisters and mom are going to take care of Bonnie.Its great someone will be there to feed her but she will get lonely.

Another thing on my mind is that my dad is not well. He has had a rough year with medical problems and he has been in the hospital since he had some problems with a pacemaker. I was going to visit him this week but he knew he would not be feeling well so he suggested that we get together when we get back from our trip.

I felt badly today because I forgot to take Oliver to his violin lesson with his awesome teacher, Miguel. We had rescheduled the lesson and I told everyone to remind me but everyone forgot. I remembered at 4:23 and his lesson was at 4. I just hate to miss appointments. No lessons for a month and a half as Miguel is going to the Philippines for vacation. Oliver has to take his violin to the UK to practice!

Needless to say, I feel pretty yucky.  Roland thinks its just pre-holiday sludge. Maybe it is. I am sure it is. I like to get everything right and nothing that concerns me has any certainty.

Now, as I have purged myself in this confessional blog, I feel much better suddenly.Overwhelmingness, be damned! How can I not have a great time with three excited kids who can't wait to have adventures?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Enrique's Turn

Lady Gaga, Morrissey, Justin Tranter

Let me introduce you to Enrique. He is an incredibly talented, motivated and intelligent fourteen year old who has survived some indescribably unimaginable circumstances which brought him and his younger brother Miguel into our home nearly six months ago.

This last week, for one of his classes, he was required to write an essay about himself and to describe an incident that has a lasting effect on who he has become. He chose to write about Lady Gaga and how her songs have helped him deal with bullying when he first came here (U.S.). I have never seen him so eager to communicate his ideas. He was actually excited about the topic because it truly interested him. However, his teacher did not agree with the topic since she felt it did not answer the prompt.

I was reminded of an interview with Morrissey in which he spoke about his school experience. One time a teacher asked the class to write about the most influential book and he decided to write about the dictionary. His teacher did not like it and put up a big fuss.

I am not meaning to say that his teacher is anything like Morrissey's. But I will say that format isn't everything. Content is far more important. As an English teacher,  I can tell you with honesty that it is easy to forget what is most important for students to gain from a lesson or assignment.

From what I have observed, he has gained a love of writing and expressing emotions, some confidence and empowerment. Not to mention the value of self expression. Clearly this exceeds the objectives of the assignment!

I am including his essay in my blog since the way Enrique identifies with Lady Gaga is so similar to how many fans identify with Morrissy and his music.

Despite his seemingly angelic attributes, I am sure that Enrique will only be happy once he has killed his brother Miguel!

Lady GaGa and Me
When I first got here to the U.S. I was a joyful six grader just looking for friends. But it did not work that way. I was bullied, physically, and mentally everyday during P.E. and internalized my fear. Mother Monster’s (Lady GaGa) lyrics have value for me to uproar to bullies, and Lady GaGa went through the same hell as me. She has made me feel that I was not alone in this incident. Lady GaGa and I have so much in common, we both like to express ourselves in ways that people, just like us, don't understand. I, just like her, know who Judas is, I, just like her will be Bloody Mary, I, just like her love my Hair, and we were Born This Way. The essence of Lady GaGa and I are so much alike in ways that encourage both of us to finally be ourselves in the alienated world around us. And since both of us have been bullied, we really want to put a stop to it. That is why I choose to write about us.
What does not kill you makes you stronger. Lady GaGa has taught me that by facing my fears it will make me stronger and persevere. And that is what Judas is all about. Judas is an allusion for the Judas Iscariot in the Bible. He symbolizes betrayal, and fear. In her song Judas Lady GaGa says,” When he comes to me, I am ready” her message is to accept the fear and try to dominate it. Therefore my life relates so much with these lyrics that not even my atheist god can help me understand how Lady GaGa is "the one I cling to". And "I've learned love is like a brick, you can build a house or sink a dead body" there are so many ways to understand this, but my interpretation is that it is necessary to experience new things, and give them a positive perspective, rather than a negative perspective. Judas will always find his ways to betray Jesus, when "Judas kiss[es] me if offensed, Or wear[s] ear condom next time," it is necessary to block all the negative comments in life, which encourages me to be who I want to be, without Judas.
From Lady GaGa I have learned that once I have conquered my fears they are insignificant to look at them. And as these fears come along we see that they will always bring judgment with them."[I'll] dance, dance, dance With my hands, hands/Hands above my head/Dance together/Forgive him before he's dead/Because I won't cry for you I won't crucify the things you do" let fears see that they don't affect us in our lives. No matter how much fears hurt they are insignificant, but always with us, and this is why Bloody Mary, the song means so much in my life. In Bloody Mary the lyrics start by saying that Mary loves her fiancĂ©, but by the end Mary says she is not in love with him. This "love" that we think is for us, might not be for us, because love is just like a mirror -- fix it if it is broken, but the crack in that reflection is still perceptible. The sculptor Michelangelo is mentioned in Bloody Mary because, "We are not just art for Michelangelo to carve. He can't rewrite the agro of my furied/Heart." For sculptors it is hard to avoid mistakes, as it is for us the mistakes come as commonly as the sculptors’ mistakes, but just try to live with joy, and be one with yourself.
Mothers teach their young to be strong, but Mother Monster has shown me how to physically stand up for myself. So many people like to look glamorous, and to express themselves with a hair style. In her song Hair, Mother Monster explains to her Little Monsters that we need to “…die as free as [our] hair”. There are so many judicious people out there that we want to show them that they are judgmental, and that they need to allow differences. "I’ve had enough/This is my prayer/That I’ll die living just as free as my hair I’ve had enough I’m not a freak I must keep fighting to stay cool on the streets" this phrase truly relates to me. I have been judged and bullied-and I just want to make an uproar to the bullies saying let karma do its job!! I remember when I had no friends at all and "Sometimes I want[ed] to rock on some highlights/Just because I want my friend[s] to think that I am dynamite. . ./I just want to be free, I just want to be me, And I want lots of friends that invite me to their parties" with boundless freedom to finally trust myself and have fun, with no prejudice. And this song is leading me to express my life by giving my hair some life -- some color -- and be myself.
Even though changing my hair color will not stop the bullies, it will help me gain confidence to stand up for myself. And no matter how I try to stop these bullies I will not be able to because they are cowards; they do not care how much agony they cause to so many individuals. I stand up for anyone, "No matter gay, straight or bi Lesbian, transgendered life I'm on the right track, baby I was born to survive/No matter black, white or beige/Chola or orient made I'm on the right track, baby I was born to be brave" this is why every person is Born This Way, because nobody should be offended by the actions and comments of others, because "god makes no mistakes". Lady GaGa tells us to "[Not] hide yourself in regret, Just love yourself and you're set" this is an exemplary example to not believe what others say, this also is another excellent example to be ourselves. The lyrics have so much influence on me that I believe in Her, Mother Monster, Lady GaGa. Shame does not terrorize me anymore.

Enrique and Miguel