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Nothing.

I was humming this song earlier today without remembering what it actually was and what the lyrics were and then I remembered and laughed to myself and thought oh dear am I really that out there that I process emotions or non emotions through showtunes.

Yes. The answer is yes.

Sometime this last weekend my biological maternal grandmother died. I hadn’t seen her since my grandfather (her husband) died in 2011 or maybe I saw her in early 2012 when I came by to get a mandolin that belonged to my grandfather. For years I tolerated her so I could see my grandfather who was far too patient and forgiving of her but he was the kindest man I’d ever met and I loved him dearly.

She was a woman who was emotionally stunted early on–she was abusive by even 1950s standards to her two eldest children but mellowed out by the time the third one was born nearly a decade later. It is not my story to tell, so I don’t tell much of it. But anyone who has physical and emotional abuse in their bloodline knows that it doesn’t die out of the line quietly. We’ve all been marked by , as my mother refers to her, The Witch.

It’s times like this I have to stay off facebook. When I don’t want to see what my primos de la negacion are posting–attempting to make an ordinary tyrant out as if she was extraordinary, amazing and, yes, loving.

She never did anything to me, of course. But I couldn’t relate to her and her world view: myopic and self-centered and utterly stupid, really. I mean, she read The National Inquirer without irony. She had nothing to say of importance and made no difference in the world unless you count hurting children. I couldn’t forgive her for what she’d done to my mother either. I don’t talk to my aunt either for what she did to my cousin. I’m totally okay with cutting out people–almost too okay with it. But once I feel nothing. I can’t walk that back.

She’s dead and I feel nothing. I don’t even feel relief. And I have no patience for the fakery that comes with distant deaths and am grateful I live too far to even be asked if I can go to a funeral or memorial. I’m not good at fake emotion. And for a sometimes actress I suck at pretend in real life.

The nothingness strikes so strongly perhaps because I’ve had such great friendships with other women. My real (paternal) grandmother chief among them. In fact as I heard the other grandmother died all I could think of was my own grandmother Gloria and how she totally owned that role and I wake up every morning feeling that hole of sorrow now that she’s gone. She taught me you give something back. You help. You do something with your life. You try and make it better or else what’s the point in being here?

I’m too much of a depressive not to need a purpose. All I mourn of the other grandmother is a waste of life that never got lived. That never helped. That never owned her abuse of her children. That didn’t know how to do the basics of kind.

She was simple and stupid with a streak of evil that knew no bounds. And now my day continues watching a country where simple stupid men with a streak of evil know no bounds. And I am tasked by Grandma Gloria to try and make it better.

But for tonight I will just feel nothing.

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Last Call for One Act Plays

Pachuca Productions is hosting a two-day one act play/monologue festival called Sierra Words. Submit small cast plays (no more than 4 characters and no more than 15-minutes long) to pachucaproductions@thestudy.us. Particularly interested in plays by Californian Latinx, and women in general, and rural playwrights. We have room for two more plays–will it be yours? Deadline January 31, 2020.

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Not Going for the Bait

I still subscribe to a service that sends me alerts to community college teaching jobs in California. I spent 17+ years teaching at the community college level and when you do that semi-professional world for that long (I say semi because I was an adjunct and people assume there’s something wrong with us even though only 85% of the teaching world is in that boat.

I don’t unsubscribe because…..I don’t know…maybe I never wanted to close the door? The thing is I’m a really good teacher. I enjoy it. My students now (I now teach arts classes in prisons) enjoy it too. I know my stuff and I’m a big believer in getting the student in the room who has imposter scholar syndrome to realize they belong there.

Part of me would LOVE to be teaching at a community college again. The other part has adjunct PTSD and I never want to get in that position again where I let people take advantage of me. Every once in awhile I throw my hat into the ring if it’s a school I have some respect for.

But mostly I’ve come to realize that I’m not who schools are looking for. I can’t be molded and I’m too old to care about fitting in or jumping through hoops.

It’s a weird feeling to know you are letting go of a career and a personality of yours and that you may never quite return to it.

But I was pretty damn good at it anyhow.

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latina small town theatre travel

Viva Pachuca

New Year’s Resolution. Make website for Pachuca. It’s getting there. Check it out!
https://pachucaproductions.org/

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latina literary travel

Places Like Home

literarykitchen.net

Head over to the Literary Kitchen

Up at http://www.literarykitchen.net you’ll find the anthology that I and the other writerchicks I know have always wanted to see: places like home –an anthology of stories that saw their first sparkle of light in the writing prompts Ariel Gore gave us in her online writing courses we’ve taken over the years. Check it out. A chapter of the novel I’m working on is in here! Yay!

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arts & crafts california latina travel

The Second @ the Hotel Mission de Oro

On New Year’s Day I got an email saying a poem I’d recently written would be up on HipMama Zine. Yay! I’ve been working on longer term projects all year so I’ve published a good deal less and nearly neglected my blog altogether. But The Husband follows my blog (has been since before he became The Husband) and suggested that I might consider going back to it more often and work on blog posts or poems I wasn’t going to put other places. Like a zine without the folding and the papercuts. So in that spirit, I give you my second day of 2020.

After a long day of driving I ended up here: https://www.hotelmissiondeoro.com/

Often when I drive from LA back to Plumas County I can’t make it in one go anymore. So I wind up stopping in Santa Nella. I never thought to even look at Hotel Mission de Oro as I assumed I was priced out, but hello Expedia and the fact that motels around there have uncomfortable beds and a price range that’s really only a $25 difference, I gave it a try.

LOVED IT.

It’s like hotels are supposed to be run. Also I have a thing for lamps.

I am a complete sucker for the whole tile thing. What’s more with the new house which hasn’t had an upgrade ever I am checking out everyone’s bathrooms all the time. #middleagednewlywed

So yeah, I liked the room.

I traveled with teenagers. I repeat TEENAGERS and as the mother of them –I knew immediately I needed to do two things this morning before heading back on the road for 5 hours.

  1. Get myself ready for the day and
  2. Get them awake. Tell them to be ready to leave by 9 am and threaten to leave them there if they didn’t.
  3. 3. Take myself to breakfast ALONE.

That’s the brioche French toast & coffee at The Kitchen. Unlike the free breakfasts at nearby motels. This set me back a few dollars but it was quiet and peaceful and I could wait for food without listening to Fox News (no TV in this dining room).

I even got the chance to write:

It started my year off right , I think.

I will definitely be back. Because all of us agreed they were the best beds on the road.

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latina literary

On the Eve of the Fifteenth

This poem of mine came out in HipMama Zine today! Such a cool way to start a new year with a poem published on the first day. Many thanks to Ariel Gore for that.

http://hipmamazine.com/margaret-elysia-garcia-on-the-eve-of-fifteenth/

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Spooky Vaudeville 3

It’s our third year of this fundraiser that helps Pachuca Productions put on the hard stuff! This year the Laramie Project in November. Come out and support a good cause and be entertained by our troupe with song, dance, parody, magic and more.

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Gloria.

The Gloria Dei

We writers often go silent at just the precise moment when there is so very much to say. That has been this past week for me. From the moment I heard from my aunt who sat vigil at her hospital bed. Grandma Gloria is gone from this world.

When such a powerful light of goodness in the world goes out it hits hard and at depth you knew was coming but could not possibly prepare.

I am reminded of Wrinkle in Time when the three Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit take the children to visit the Happy Medium who shows them the good and the light in the world and the darkness that overshadows. There’s a discussion of how to combat the darkness and the history of Earth’s inhabitants overcoming it through arts and sciences and philosophy–through thinking and creating. Jesus. Buddha. Shakespeare. My grandmother Gloria. All of them fighting the darkness.And she is all of those characters and her own character too.

She fought the darkness with love of the arts and the love of children–as simple and as complex as that. After her second son died in 1967, she had no more use for religions or gods and the comfort they could not bring her. She had no use for societal expectations that she or anyone else she loved be any particular way. She kept her distance from racists and homophobes even when it required getting rid of old friends to do it. She embraced those who others found not embraceable.

For my aunts and uncles and I, she embraced our friends and loved ones as her own children and made all feel welcomed in her house on Gunn Avenue in Whittier.

I can not get over her being gone. How could I? How could we, her family prepare? She died less than two months after her 98th birthday–she’d had many brushes with death in the last decade where we thought we might lose her–but now finally she’s gone. I wander still shell-shocked at the inevitability. I tear up in the car thinking of her singing old songs or happy birthdays at 6 am on mine. That at once sweet angelic voice and the harsh sarcasm of a bronx birth and upbringing all rolled into one.

She was a grandmother like no other and her fierce duty and loyalty deserved or not to children and grandchildren meant all other grandparents paled in comparison. If she didn’t like you, it was your own damn fault. She loved everyone but she didn’t suffer fools and she didn’t appreciate people who thought they were better than they were and she always saw right through that. Hence her disdain for pseudo-intellecuals and self-proclaimed know it alls.

But she had a soft huge heart for underdogs and the mistreated and those of us who wander without complete labels. I am the first child born (1969) after the death of her son. The first grandchild with nine years between me and the next one and a bastard at that. I fit not with her children nor my cousins but a spot she carved out for me all my own. A spot of special; she made sure I never felt less than even when others sought to make me feel so.

She was a woman of very few faults–my mother –her first daughter in law–would say it was her ambivalence towards pets. The poor woman suffered through the pets of six children and at least five grandchildren and even in retirement living with first one daughter and then the next, she never quite caught respite from dogs

Her other fault? Overwhelming sacrifice for the sake of her children and grandchildren. In her youth she’d sung on the radio and sketched commercial fashion drawings. But the depression meant she dropped out of high school to go to work retail –which is the kind of work she did most of her life–without fulfilling her artistic dreams. She lived those out through her kids and grandkids –most of whom sing or play instruments, draw, paint, write, act. All the things she sacrificed for love of family.

I think of the places she held dear as well. The theatre. The concert hall. The ballet. The margarita happy hour at the defunct Las Portales in Uptown Whittier. The love of a California road trip up north. The love of children. The permission to say yes to things because life is short. She gave us the love of California’s beaches and staring out into the ocean for endless possibilities. Queen of the dreamers, that one.

Grandma but for the love of children–it defined her and she was able to look deep into the child and find the good that perhaps no one else saw. It’s this super power that has so many of us gut-wrenched now.

I have enjoyed the position of being one of Gloria’s best friends as well as her granddaughter. We were each other’s plus one for more than two decades and confidantes.

I guess what it comes down to is this: it doesn’t just feel like grandma gloria died–it feels like the concept of unconditional love just died. I was lucky enough to have that for 50 years. It will take at least that long to recover.

I have a feeling her soul will not be at complete rest—it will instead be coaxing the stars to shine and surrounding the ether with as much love as it can bear.

My love to you always my dear, and thank you.

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Juxtaposed.

The sky is blue and the rolling hillside is just a few parkways and minutes over from the coast. The sun is shining but not too hot. Temperate. The sliding screen door to the backyard is –like me–around 50. The backyard is both green and lush and controlled. The gardener will be by later today. I don’t know his name. He will sculpt whatever is natural into suburban submission. Neighbors on social media will identify an errant flora or fauna and post a photo and ask the important questions–is it harmful? Should it be allowed to stay?

The other day someone online in my neighborhood was concerned over ladybugs.

It’s been voted one of the safest cities in the state. Like the pristine landscape, one gets the feeling that consciousness has been Roundedup here. Eradicated like a country’s heart on a dry deadland border full of desperation and depravity.

It is that removedness that I speak of. It is that removedness I have a hunch that we collectively feel.

When I was in college the onset of video–of a camcorder in every pocket, means we all got to watch those four racists cops beat Rodney King’s body on the ground. Means we–like the late Mayor Tom Bradley would say after the verdicts–all saw the tape.

And seeing back then meant reacting–no matter whether your suburb had pink sound walls spray painted with words of defiance. No matter if there was litter in your street, no matter if you were bunkered up behind the gates of your community.

Or perhaps I’m just nostalgic for movement and youth and a punk rock response and a fist in the air.

I’ve spent a lifetime feeling alone while with lovers, husbands, and romance seemed a side gig to combatting all there was to combat. There was a difference to be made and it would be made I was sure of it–by me, by those more organized than me, by those who brought down apartheid in South Africa, or the Berlin wall, surely some liberation was coming.

But now I’m a woman in love and newly married and living part-time in the country’s first planned community because it’s still coastal and more affordable than the less planned places by the sea. I am a Californian lucky enough only by circumstance and nothing else to have almost affordable housing. I’m drinking my morning coffee careful to not place the cup directly on the wood for fear it might damage the table we worked hard to refinish. I balance it instead uncomfortably in my plush thrift store (but doesn’t smell like thrift store) chair.

We go to bed thinking and talking about the children at the border; we wake up thinking and talking about them and yesterday it was reported that their mothers must drink water from toilets. Anything to make the desperate more dehumanized. Anything to be cruel.

To me, though the cruelty is usual not unusual. And as complicit as a perfect hedge. It is a strange place to live–my mind and heart filled with more love than ever and this constant aching sorrow that none of us are doing enough and we all know more than we used to know and with so little complete knowledge we used to act more swiftly, concretely.

Cops out soiled out, sold out

Cop out solid doubt

Co-pted soul splayed out

My man believes good people will–given the knowledge and the machinery for change do what’s right.

I believe that it doesn’t matter to THEM whether poor, brown people have documents or not, whether they are citizens or not, whether they have green cards or not, whether they are fleeing violence and hunger.

I’m one of those light-skinned ‘that’s funny, you don’t look, Latina. I thought you were_____” latinas. Which means in the course of my life I’ve heard those good people say shitty things about brown people because they assumed I was a good person too. My skin has made me a double agent. An observer. A traitor. A way to get into the other side. Inside out. Exposure.

What can I do from here that I haven’t already done? What more letters? What more money? What more screaming? What can I do that will not harm me or my own children or my own family? What can relieve the sorrow in my heart? That dull pierce in an otherwise perfect time?

And who are these people, these fellow countrymen who would take jobs that deprive themselves and their victims of humanity? And who are these people , these fellow countrymen who think this is okay?

The sky is still blue, mid-morning. It’s quiet now. The birds have stopped their morning song. The room I am sitting in to write this is nearly perfect. Isolated. Deliberately quiet.

I am less than a hundred miles from the concentration camps on the American/Mexican border. Twenty some odd years ago I visited the fledgling democracies of eastern Europe. On a train outside Krakow, Poland I saw the village of Oswiecim–and I wondered how anyone could live there, so close to so much degradation, destruction, and death.

It was early summer when I visited and the countryside was lush and green and had a certain perfection about it. A familiarity. A place one could be happy to live. And I wondered why they weren’t able to shut it all down if they were indeed good people. How they didn’t just rise up en masse and bring it all down.

It’s not something I wonder about anymore.