Sunday, October 30, 2005


lots of things to share about the weekend in san diego.


after my frolick with the jellyfish on friday afternoon, i went to the rehearsal dinner/picnic in mission bay. mike, veronica's fiancee (now husband!), had ordered food from all of his favorite san diego restaurants. there was everything from pizza to mexican food to sushi. a couple of my friends tried the "spam rolls," spam wrapped in white rice and seaweed.

we stayed out there on the waterfront until long after the sun set. it was at that point that i remembered how COLD descends on the shore after the sun disappears. i would have suffered much more in my t-shirt had it not been for veronica's mother, who had come prepared with enormous coats (presumably for all the texans. when did i become a texan???).

although a bunch of us had planned to get dressed up and hit the town after the picnic, we were all pretty exhausted from our travels that day. not to mention jetlagged. so we just had a couple of drinks at the hotel where the rehearsal dinner was being held (i had hot chocolate, yum!), swung by the airport one last time for my roommate, who was coming in late, and went back to our hotel.

didn't sleep until catching one more glimpse of the ocean at night. it blends dark blue into the horizon. mostly you just hear it, kind of a soft and hollow roar.


sleep blissfully late. which actually means that we wake up around eight in the morning, since we are still on texas time.

my roommate and i agree that our best plan of action will be to roll right out of our beds for a hearty breakfast, and then to continue rolling on to the beach. which we do. have a leisurely breakfast at a cafe around the corner from our hotel. we seat and sun ourselves on the outdoor patio and delve in to our breakfast burritos and the morning newspaper.

we poke into a few of the shops around town, appreciating the surfer girl aesthetic that many of the shops seem to offer. we choose not to buy any surf diva apparel because we don't want anyone to think that we are posers. :)

then to the beach. it is another perfect day. i roll up my pant legs, kick off my chanclas and begin to trod through the thick sand toward the ocean. the water is cold on our feet and the sun warm on our backs. olga regales me with questions about the beach and surfing. do surfers wash their wetsuits? they can't just hose them off! what kind of bird is that? a pelican? i don't know! i'm just a wannabe surf diva.

i find the tiniest sand dollar in the world and put it in my pocket. olga drops a rock on a jellyfish that we are both too scared to touch. we walk and walk, let our rolled up pants get salty wet, until it's time to go back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

the wedding that afternoon in balboa park is both beautiful and moving. mike and veronica have managed to plan a ceremony that incorporates elements of her mexican american and his japanese american cultural backgrounds. the ceremony is catholic-esque, a retired priest performing the ceremony. they incorporate a lazo ceremony from the mexican catholic tradition, where the bride and groom are essentially tied together, the priest blessing their now bonded lives. then a sake ceremony, where the bride and groom and each set of parents partake of the same sake, symbolizing the unification of their two families. when the ceremony is over, they walk back down the aisle to the songs of a full mariachi band.

the reception is similarly infused with their different cultures and also senses of style and humor. mike has chosen the Rocky theme song for the introduction of the bridal party. there are tiny sake cups at our tables as wedding tokens that say, "i got lit at mike and veronica's wedding." veronica's mother makes an eloquent toast in spanish; mike's grandfather leads a banzai toast. the evening's dancing is to cumbia, 70s funk, old school hip hop, and spanish pop.

i dance until my feet blister and ache.

the wedding celebration wonderfully unique and happy.

Friday, October 28, 2005

shiny happy san diego

i got off the plane today and felt like i was in callifornia. the san diego airport has enormous windows, seems like from roof to floor, that reveal palm trees and pristine blue skies. the air is crisp and cool, the sun warm on your skin, the constant ocean breeze tangles your hair.

the stretch of beach adjacent to our hotel in la jolla is gorgeous. clean sand, the water a deep blue etching a sharp line against the horizon.

walking on the beach i saw this amazing jellyfish washed up on the shore. i'd never seen a jellyfish this big before. you could actually see the shellfish that it had eaten because of its transparent insides.

i'm giddy at the beach and can hardly believe that only 24 hours prior the tension in my neck and shoulders as i was trying to run all my last minute errands was causing my head to throb. here i am practically skipping along the shore. i am irrationally happy.

there is something amazing about being by the ocean. being next to something so enormous and beautiful and forever.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


this past week has been bad. grad student bad.

i confess that i have been neglecting my students. don't get me wrong; when i'm in class, i try to convey the ideas at hand in the clearest possible way. i listen, i try to engage them in dialogue. but i wasn't looking at the big picture. namely, i'd forgotten that they are scheduled to take an exam next week. (i usually try to prepare them mentally or scare them into studying). i found myself scrambling this week to write paper topics for them and a to create a review sheet. i'm generally trying to be the teacher that i know that i can be if i make the effort.

these past few days i've also been trying to submit job and fellowship dossiers. seven of them. that was madness. the basic elements of a job dossier are:
x a coverletter--generally two pages, single spaced. though each coverletter has the basic same elements, they all have to be tailored to the university at hand--research or teaching--and to the department (e.g. anthropology, american studies, latino/a studies, chicano/a studies, ethnic studies, women's studies, etc.)
x a curriculum vitae. this is like an extended resume; it should hover around five pages.
x a writing sample, which should be around thirty pages. i've been submitting chapters of my dissertation.

some universities want more. they want sample syllabi of courses they would like you to teach, they want a written teaching philosophy, student evaluations of your teaching, graduate transcripts... some want more than one writing sample. they will ask for two or three. the postdoc applications want a statement of research and an abstract of your project and your first born child... you get the picture.

i had seven of these applications to turn in by thursday evening. it all had to be in the mail by the time i left for san diego friday morning. i got five out. i'll have to express mail one of the more demanding job dossiers on monday, after completing my teaching portfolio. and then there's a postdoc i'm applying to in san diego. i have to revise my statement of research, which, by the way, i just finished writing wednesday night. i don't know if i have the mental distance to revise it yet, but i'll have to. i'll submit that online tuesday. why kill myself with those last two things if i successfully completed five applications this week and there will be more to submit come mid-november?

they're both positions in california, which is where my family lives. i'll take whatever i get next year, but it would be nice to nearer to rather than farther from home.

so i'll run myself a little ragged for a little bit. i'm looking forward to a weekend in san diego to cushion the stress.


Monday, October 24, 2005

jennifer needs

my roommate recently told me about a blog meme going around. the blogger is supposed to type her name + needs into google. i did this out of curiosity to see what "jennifer needs," according to google. most of the hits refer to the more famous jennifers--lopez and aniston. but they might apply to the lesser jennifers, as well!

according to google:

1. Jennifer needs a cold shower.
2. Jennifer needs this Diva Publicity like she needs a hole in the head.
3. Jennifer needs a smack daddy.
4. Jennifer needs space.
5. Jennifer needs to keep on improving.
6. Jennifer needs the earth energy in her life to learn how to ground and be more practical.

i like the last few. though i may indeed need "a smack daddy," i believe a greater need might be to "keep improving." and if all that earth energy works itself out for me, that'd be great, too. ;)


Friday, October 21, 2005

cumpliendo an~os

isn't she lovely?
i won't tell you how old she is today; my mother has always been very young at heart.

she's had an amazing life. she and i were talking the other day about how her life, in many ways, has come full circle. she comes from a farm working family and spent many of her teenage years working in the fields, migrating from south texas to new mexico, arizona, and california, and even some sojourns to the midwest. i grew up with her stories about working in the fields. about the snake that slithered across her feet when she was picking cotton in missouri. about the chicken coops they slep in while they worked in indiana. the cold mornings in new mexico. the cold and fog of watsonville picking apples. how she and her sisters would emerge covered in grape juice from working la gondola. then, of course, they would shower and be ready for their dances!

years later, settled in california, she would meet and marry my father, who also work in agriculture. he used the GI bill after returning from vietnam to pay for his college education, an education that affords him an office position. agricultural sales. as such, they travel together once a year or so to agricultural conferences. growers, brokers, salespeople, and their assistant instructors converge to rub elbows, make connections, talk shop, and so forth (i don't really know what goes on in these conferences; i've never been invited!).

anyway, i remember once my mom telling me about one of these conference she and my dad had gone to. i think it was in atlanta. they were having dinner in the ballroom of a hotel. she described how they were all seated for dinner, the lights dimmed, and that the tuxedoed wait staff emerged carrying silver platters. all at once they uncovered the platters to reveal the cuisine of the evening and began to serve the guests.

it was something else for my mother. she couldn't help but think, i used to work for these people. IN THE FIELDS. and now i'm sitting next to them having dinner at this elegant place.

full circle.

i guess, at times, it's been a poor life. but i think that it's always--at some level--been rich.

happy birthday, mom. i love you!

(you know you secretly love that i write about you.)


Thursday, October 20, 2005

murphy's law

i wake up late. go for a late run. am running late to school. i'm supposed to catch one of my professors in the "morning" to get his signature on a form i need to turn in for my dissertation defense.

i deposit my computer and backpack in my office and run to the history department, feeling agitated because i've not had breakfast. i am at his office just after 11AM. he signs without telling me that my dissertation is great! fine! i need that encouragement in my weakened state.

instead i go in search of breakfast tacos. sold out at the sandwich truck. no longer being sold at the campus "convenience" store. no longer being sold at the campus coffeeshop. no breakfast tacos on campus! i secretly feel this is a conspiracy against mexicans at UT. i opt for a slice of veggie pizza.

i go back to my office. i have not done the reading for my class. this does not necessarily spell disaster for students, but because i am TEACHING the class for which i have not done the readings, disaster does seem imminent.

i spend the next hour frantically reading the past week's worth of material that I HAVE ASSIGNED to the class. and i'm thinking, why did i give them so much to read??? i finish most of it but have no clue how i'm going to facilitate discussion.

i spend $2.60 on a cafe americano that i am convinced will help me to focus and be brilliant. it is weak and watery. i drink less than half of it and am not quite feeling brilliant when class begins at 2PM. as i speak, my students look at once confused and bored, which does not seem possible, but apparently it is.

a painful hour and a half later, i run to get my last signature and turn in my documents to the office of graduate studies. the woman points out a mistake i have made on my dissertation formatting, but nevertheless enters me into the computer database. now the university knows. i will be defending november 2nd.

back in the office i revise a job letter and assemble other materials to send to the university of very far away from my home. i finish, but the campus post office is closed.

i take the bus home, get into my car and spend the next forty minutes in traffic heading downtown. i have not eaten since 11:30AM; it is now nearing 6PM. i am anxious and frustrated. i see a parking spot a block from the post office and make a last minute decision to take it. i maneuver quickly toward the sidewalk and HIT THE CAR i am parking in front of. hit it. a nice shiny toyota four runner. silver. big scratch. BIG.

unethically, i run to the post office. mail my letter and come back to the scene of the crime. i leave an apologetic note with my phone number on it.

starving, i think that i will stop by this taco stand on the way home, but have no cash. i pull into a wells fargo and hit up the ATM for cash. the machine informs me that it will have to use my OVERDRAFT protection to fulfill my request, do i want to continue?

i don't continue. i would rather be hungry and poor and agitated all the way home.

i come home and hear strains of marc anthony on the stereo. my roommate's boyfriend is in the kitchen cooking dinner. eggplant parmesano. they are sympathetic and feed me. one of my students writes me a nice email. i talk to my parents. i feel better.

but i still want to sleep. to wake up tomorrow on a different side of the bed.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

an omen?

i have a dissertation defense date.

it was, perhaps ridiculously, important to me that i defend my dissertation before my birthday, which is november 4th. i'll be turning 30, which feels like a milestone; i wanted to have the defense behind me before i turned 30.

it's considered a courtesy to give your committee members a full month to read your dissertation before the defense date. thus, my hustle to turn in the diss on september 30th. shortly after handing my dissertation over to my committee members, one of them emailed me and told me that the soonest he could attend a defense would be the week of october 31st. it occurred to me, then, that i would be cutting it close to my self-imposed deadline.

i had to find the magic day and time that would work for all five of my dissertation committee members, who teach and have other university obligations. i just wanted it to be before friday, the 4th.

i got my wish, and was able to schedule the defense for november 2nd at one in the afternoon.

shortly after i announced the date, another committee member emailed and said, "You would pick dia de los muertos!" day of the dead.

i'm now left wondering what kind of omen that is...


Friday, October 14, 2005


i came back from south texas on sunday night, and i was hoarse. i'd been fighting a sore throat with teas and vitamin c since thursday, but i didn't rest as much as i should have over the weekend. by monday morning i had full-blown laryngitis.

the doctor checked my ears, nose, and throat, felt my lymph nodes, and declared that i had a cold. instead of swollen bronchial tubes, i had swollen tubes in my voicebox. (well, ok, i don't remember if that was her scientific explanation, but that was the gist!). she told me that because it was a virus, there were no antibiotics that could help me. i just had to rest and be quiet.

be quiet. hmph.

i called in sick to work for later that day. i called in a guest lecturer for my class on tuesday, and i rested. well, i was restfully grading papers, but it wasn't so bad. it was kind of nice to absolve myself of most of my responsibilities for the week. i missed a couple of fun outings with my friends, like the día de la raza celebration last night--lots of music, dancing and fun, but that's ok. it feels nice, allowing myself this period of convalescence. it feels like an indulgence.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

son~ando en south texas

saturday just after seven in the evening. cristina and i are driving west along a farm road just outside of elsa, texas. the sun is setting behind grey clouds that have threatened, but not delivered, rain that afternoon. that western stretch of sky iridescent in its glistening golds, pinks, greys, and blues.

we are heading to a coffeeshop in mission, texas, where a south texas acquaintance of mine will be reading from his collection of poetry. he's invited me to read. if i want. i carry two poems folded neatly in my purse, but am undecided.

my other friend, cristina (from brownsville), meets us at jitterz, a bright spot amidst mission stripmalls. its brightly colored walls are adorned with paintings, photos, and other locally-produced art. daniel, the featured poet of the evening, thrives in the spotlight, playing with words and rhythms, and joking with the audience.

i unfold my poems on stage and am self-conscious about how un-funny they are. one is about an ex-love, the other about a mother whose son has recently returned from iraq. but everyone laughs at the joking way i introduce them; the audience smiles and claps appropriately when i finish. i am happy.

we escape before the third set (!) of poetry and head to mcallen for food and drinks. our first stop is the republic of the rio grande valley, where we seat ourselves at a table in the outdoor patio. we order an appetizer, a meal, and a dessert. a full course meal between the three of us. wine and margaritas for each. there are introductions and updates, confessions and stories--funny and sad. the restaurant is closing, and cecilia (cristina's sister, my friend) calls; she is coming to meet us. we decide that our next destination will be españa.

it is nearing midnight, and españa does not sleep. the patio is filled with latino glitterati, drinking and smoking, their conversations a varied music sharpening the soft orange light of the space. we snag a recently abadoned table, and a server comes to change the linens while we settle in. champagne and wine, another margarita. on the rocks.

we give cecilia the update on the poetry. question the politics of the poets. we talk about writing--the process, the politics, the audience. we talk careers and flailing love lives. our questions, opinions, and declarations bubbling like the champagne in cristina's glass.

i realize at some point during the evening that this is the perfect moment. here at españa as the hours become small. enjoying the company of my beautiful and opinionated friends, our futures uncertain but our dreams close.


Friday, October 07, 2005

viva la maquina

friday night in the rio grande valley.

it is just after seven o'clock and we are rushing out the door, us women attending to last minute primping--lipstick and earrings--while cristina's dad waits, ready, in the car. we are there in less than five minutes, twenty minutes before the game is scheduled to begin, but i sense that we are late.

there are cars parked along the road to the stadium and packed into the parking lot; we maneuver into a makeshift space on the football practice field.

a cold front--a northern wind--has arrived in the valley that day, delivering a chill as the sun fades on the horizon, casting a pink glow on the wisps of clouds across the sky, now a tender twilight blue.

yellowjacket fans swarm the stadium in clothes that are black and every shade of gold (from muted yellows to shiny metallics). smoke and the smell of fajitas float along the breeze as we wade through the crowd of people, many of whom cristina and her family know. we are fortunate to have seats in the reserved section just to the left of the fifty yard line.

the stadium lights are almost too bright even though there are still strains of sun in the sky, and a string of headlights continue to stream into the parking lot. the announcer prepares the crowd in a bass that resonates through the stadium. the sound system projects an engine revving. cristina leans over to me and says, excitedly, "that's la maquina."

all at once the 'jackets burst onto the field, and the crowd begins to roar.

they are larger than life.

it becomes obvious early on that the 'jackets will dominate the game. i decide to head to the snackbar just before halftime to grab a fajita taco. half an hour later, i am at the front of the line, and the tacos are sold out. *sigh* me quedé con el antojo. nevertheless, the anthropologist in me is satisfied watching trendy high school girls and tall, gawky high school boys flirt in awkward ways; young mothers yanking along their michievous and smiling toddlers in their mini-yellowjacket apparel; handsome young mexican american men (my age), their wedding bands gleaming as they buy a family's worth of pizza, frito boats, and soda.

the game is a blowout; the 'jackets trounce the tigers 46-7. we stay to the cold and bitter end, long after the mercedes fans in their orange apparel have abandoned their team. we stay along with other jacket fans who continue to yell, "viva! la maquina!" and "no mercy!" even when we know it is impossible for the tigers to come back.

nothing quite like football in the valley.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

my sister

even though my sister is four years younger than i am, sandra has always been lightyears ahead when it comes to what magazines call "beauty and fashion." fortunately, she likes to impart her beauty and fashion wisdom to her less savvy older sister.

once upon a time, i was going to my senior prom. i had a pretty dress, a makeup appointment at the mall, and a handsome date. it was very exciting.

as i was getting ready, sandra, who was in eighth grade at the time, took one look at me and said, "you're NOT going to the prom with those eyebrows."

i protested slightly, but she commanded that i "lay down" and hovered over me with her tweezers.

"ouch! that hurts!"

"no it doesn't! it feels good," she said, decisively.

as she angled and arched my eyebrows, i asked her, "how did you learn how to do this?"

"magazines! duh!"

and so it was that i was able to go to my senior prom with my pretty dress, my mall makeup, handsome date, and arched eyebrows. thanks to my sister.

since senior prom, my sister has been there for me in many other ways. as a fashion consultant she tells me when my jeans are "killing my outfits" and takes me shopping. as a friend, she is my shoulder to cry on whenever i face a professional or personal disappointment.

in february my sister will be getting married, and i will be her maid of honor. it really will be an honor because not only is she my sister, she is one of my best friends.

happy birthday, sister. :)


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

scary (exciting)

i received the following message from my dissertation chair yesterday:

I received your dissertation. Congrats. The only thing you need to
do now is set the date.

a lot of people have congratulated me during my dissertation's various stages of "finished." but this is the first time my chair has congratulated me. seems silly to revel in it, especially considering that the rest of my committee has yet to congratulate me (or even read the diss!). but this really feels like something to me.

now i need to set the date! yikes.