December 30, 2013


I don't think I'm good at giving people the stink eye. When I try to do so, I somehow send a message that says, "talk to me...especially if you're crazy." 

As I was travelling this weekend I was determined to avoid the crazy people that usually approach me. Even if they were sitting right next to me on the airplane. And the crazy people always sit right next to me on the airplane.

I determined that the cause of this is because I smile too much and I don't like to hurt anyone's feelings. This is a blessing and a curse. So, I tried to not smile and attempted to look really really mean. In fact, I glared at anyone who came near me. I also had a cold so I made sure not to hide my coughing and nose blowing. And it worked. I got on the airplane and NO ONE sat next to me. Usually people scramble to sit next to me because I'm small and I look like I don't smell. LITTLE DO THEY KNOW. Just kidding, I don't smell. I think.

So everyone is seated and then suddenly a last minute passenger bursts onto the plane and the flight attendants rush her down the aisle. She has eighty things in her hands and is panting and sweating. Everyone hates her because it is now obvious that they were holding the plane for her. And of course, the only open seat is next to me.

She reaches my row and tells me not to get out of my seat, but there is no way I want her butt in my face as she crawls over me with all of her earthly possessions falling on me so I get up quickly and let her in. She finally settles down and our plane is allowed to taxi out and take off. She thinks she lost her cellphone and starts panicking but then realizes it's in a brown paper bag (why???) that is sitting on top of her laptop, which she proceeds to rest her feet on. She and I are in the emergency row and I think she will be of no help if we have to work together in an emergency.

As we reach altitude, my sinuses start hurting because of my cold and my ears start to plug up.  I try to keep popping them but it is no use.  My ears are soon completely plugged and I can't hear a thing. 

The woman sitting next to me turns to talk to me and her voice sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown. I try to tell her I can't hear her but I must have been shouting because she looks very affronted and doesn't talk to me for the rest of the flight. Success. For once my wee ears that plug up all the time have done me a favor. I read a book in peace. Until the descent of the airplane, which makes my ears and sinuses feel like a thousand drums are being played in my head. I look over at the woman sitting next to me who now appears to be talking to the person in front of her through the crack of her seat so I think the drums are still better.

We land and I exit the plane. I'm not sure if anyone talks to me on my way out cause my ears are still completely plugged. I take a taxi home. I have no idea what the taxi driver is saying to me and he too is startled by how loudly I'm telling him where I need to go. I then finally realize via his wild gestures to the radio that he is asking me if he can choose a radio station for me. He picks one and looks at me and I give him a thumbs up. It could have been the sound of nails on a chalkboard and I would have given the thumbs up.

I'm trying to pop my ears during the taxi ride as I'm starting to get very disoriented not being able to hear anything.  I finally yawn a big yawn as we hit a bump on the freeway and suddenly my ears unplug and the music in the taxi is blasting all around me.  It is the song All By Myself.  I realize the taxi driver chose for me a radio station that plays sad love songs.   He looks in the rear view mirror and gives me a thumbs up.  

December 26, 2013

The Driveway

There are a lot of things I learned as a kid from my parents that I thought were normal until I went out into the world and realized those things may not be that normal.  

One of these things was the use of our driveway.  Everytime we had a visitor, family, friends, or even the UPS man, we walked out to the end of the driveway to walk the guest to their car.  And then we all waved at the guest until their car was out of site.  The reasoning behind this was to give our guests a proper send off.  Which I think was a very nice thing to do. 

Except for when we waved at the UPS guy, who was probably really creeped out.

Or the people who were frequently at our house. That probably got a little old.

As I grew up and started to have friends over on my own, I would wave at them from our driveway until their moms drove them out of sight.  And when we all started to get our drivers licenses and drove ourselves, I still did so. No one ever said anything about it and my friends would always wave back.

Then I got to Los Angeles. The land where the only reason someone could possibly be waving at me was if they were flipping me off on the 405. Or if I was a celebrity. Which I'm not. And the world as I knew it came crashing down.

When I lived in a dorm my freshman year of college I would naturally walk any of my new friends who visited out of the building and then wave at them as they crossed campus to their dorm. It was a very long campus. Sometimes people would jump behind buildings as they walked away just to make the waving stop.  This confused me because in my world, everyone likes waving. It's friendly and can be used in numerous settings.  It builds upper body strength. It means hello AND goodbye. It means "I love you" and "I'll miss you."

But in this new world I had entered such actions now meant "I am weird" and "Okay CALL ME!!!!" 

When I moved off campus I would still walk my guests to their cars. But this was seen more as a measure of safety rather than a grand goodbye gesture. I would not wave as much and would force myself to turn around and walk back inside before the visitor was out of sight.  Which felt wrong. 

And then when I left college and moved again I started to only walk visitors to my front door. But I would watch them out of the window to make sure they got to their cars. This was probably more creepy than waving.

Soon I couldn't even remember why I had been waving goodbye in the first place. When I went home to visit my family I would stand in the cold waving goodbye to everyone who left our home, not feeling the same confidence. What was the point?

I forgot about the practice of driveway waving completely the more time I spent away from home. 

Just the other day in LA I was sitting in my car at the longest stoplight in the world. It's one I go through every day on my drive to work and if I get stopped at it I always know an aggravating wait is in store. I was settled in at the light grumbling to myself that I would have to wait a whole THREE minutes.  A young couple was crossing the street with their baby in a stroller. For whatever reason when I looked at the baby she looked right at me and stared at me with wide eyes. I thought she was challenging me to a staring contest.

And then she raised her little hand and started waving. Her hand was facing her own face so she was doing it wrong but she was looking right at me. I waved back meekly - afraid someone in the cars around me would see this foreign gesture and not understand what it meant.  The baby continued to wave at me all the way across the street and onto the opposite sidewalk. I felt this inherant need to wave more strongly back at her now, the farther she got away. She continued down the sidewalk waving and now her parents noticed and they started waving too. 

I opened my sunroof and waved broadly as they rounded a corner. I saw the baby's little hand waving and then they were gone.

The light finally turned green and I drove on. 

There are some people in my life that I would have liked to wave to forever like that, unabashed and with joy, thinking I'll see them again soon.  But sometimes people move on, they change, or they leave us. 

That crazy baby made me realize I don't want to stop waving like a maniac to my loved ones as they drive away from me. Because they are there, and I can in that moment. 

So watch out friends.  I'm going to be pretty embarrassing next time you visit me and you might have to turn a corner so that I will stop waving.

December 24, 2013

The Portuguese Hour

I have spent most of the day today with my father, going over his geneology charts of the Portuguese side of my family and looking at family photos from a very long time ago.  Putting together the pieces on how they lived their lives has really informed me about my life and why I am so crazy.  Just kidding.  Maybe.  I'm still searching for the reason why I don't like melted cheese, and I know it's there somewhere.  

I kept annoying my dad by making wild conclusions based on the facts we uncovered.  We found out that my great great grandma had at least 6 husbands (that we know of) so I shouted loudly that she must have been an international spy.  My dad stared at me and shook his head.  I still have not thrown that idea out of the window until I have proven that she was not a spy.  But I'm sure she was.  I'm sure of it.

Among the most interesting of my family was my great great grandma spy's daughter:

My great grandmother Lena Lema.  First of all, best name ever.  I wonder if she married my great grandfather Lema just so she would have a first and last name that rhymed.  She was also clearly a bad ass that didn't take crap from anyone.  She had her own radio show in the 1930s and 1940s called the Portuguese Hour that was all Portuguese, all the time.  I have heard recordings of it, but can't understand a one word.  Maybe I should learn Portuguese.  I think she started the radio show by broadcasting out of a gas station.  I like this picture of her because she looks like she has a sense of humor, but also that she is not to be crossed.  

She played the ukulele and had a strong alto voice (may explain why I sing like a man) and also used the radio station as a recording studio.  We found boxes upon boxes of records, some of which were simply recordings of my entire family drunkenly telling stories on Christmas in the 1940s.  That in itself was the best Christmas present I could have gotten.  

Lena Lema's nickname on the radio was "Miss Sunshine", although it's possible that that was supposed to be ironic.  She also owned and operated a club by herself in the 1930s after divorcing my great grandpa Lema, joined the Women's Army Corp in the 1940s during WWII, ran a drill team performing in parades and venues all over California, and as if that wasn't enough she was also the Portuguese interpreter for the Governer of California in the 50s.  No idea how she got that job.  (My dad stops me before I suggest that she too was an international spy.) Oh and she had two more marriages.  And that is just a sampling of all of the things she did as a woman in the early and mid 1900s.  

It made me realize how much I want to accomplish in my life time.  And she did all of these things in stockings and heels, and without the internet.  Raising five children and running multiple businesses.  Serving her country. Looking sharp at all times.  I mean the woman had great style.  It seems to me that she never had a break and never stopped pushing boundaries and never, never took no for an answer. Some days I feel accomplished if I simply got myself off the couch to get groceries.  Lena Lema puts me to shame.  

I'd like to think if she were alive today she would walk up to me, give me a big hug, and then smack me upside the head, and yell at me in Portuguese that I am too lazy and need to get my act together.  

December 23, 2013

The Perfume King

I was at the mall as one does around the holidays and was unknowingly coming dangerously close to the carts in the middle of the mall that sell products to unsuspecting shoppers.

Each cart has a gatekeep, a person who keeps its treasures safe, yet also peddles those treasures like there is no tomorrow.  Most obnoxious among the gatekeepers of these carts are the beauty product sellers. They know they have to work.  The iPhone case sellers, not so much.  Those bad boys will sell themselves.

Of the beauty product sellers there is the girl who accosts you with a hair straightener, and the guy who tries to put lotion on your hands (lotion that will surely give you a rash) and the old lady who insults your brittle hair while offering you conditioner.  But all of these gatekeepers bow down to their king.  And the king of all of these terrifying and obnoxious people is the Perfume Guy.  The Perfume Guy has no shame.  He will spray you right in the face, before he lets you walk by without smelling his product.  He is forward, yet also cool, calm and collected.  He always calls you "miss" or "sir" no matter how old you are.  Sometimes if he is pulling out all of the stops, he will go full creep and call you "beautiful lady." Which in itself is a lovely phrase, but the way he says it makes you feel like you need to take seventeen showers and then jump into a pool of lysol.

Now on this fateful day, I made the mistake of wandering too close to the land of mall carts.  Once I was near, I could not draw back.  They all beckoned to me.  There was no where else I could be. And nothing else mattered but mall carts.  And then there he was.  The Perfume Guy.  He was standing at the end of the lane, in all his glory.  Spraying his magnificent perfume on everyone within three feet of him.  I was drawn towards him as I walked slowly by all of the carts and got pummeled with hair products and lotions, but I barely noticed.  I stopped a little bit away to watch his mastery of obnoxiousness.  

He said in hushed undertones to people walking by:

"Miss, please try this."  SPRAY.  "Miss, this fragrance is calling to you." SPRAY.  "Sir this is what you need to smell like." SPRAY.  Most people managed to jump out of the way before they got a spray of perfume to the face, except one guy who dodged, but the Perfume Guy was too quick for him and recalculated and got him right on the neck.  The guy grabbed the perfume bottle and threw it on the ground.  At which point the Perfume Guy pulled out an identical bottle and continued spraying.  

I then noticed that soon people were turning around to go the other way to avoid the Perfume Guy.  Or just running at a dead sprint before he could spray them.  I myself started to inch back before he could sense my presence.

Being avoided seemed to frusterate the perfume guy and he started to act more aggressively. He started saying things like "This is YOUR perfume now."  Then, "You will be nothing without this perfume."  Then, "Try this perfume right now."  Then he was just simply screaming "TRY THIS!!!!" over and over again while continuously spraying perfume into the air.

At this point I could smell the perfume wafting over and it was NOT a good smell.  I started to feel sorry for the perfume man.  I watched him sit dejectedly on the mall floor, spraying his perfume into the air aimlessly.  He had given up.  I thought he was the king of the mall cart gatekeepers, the most popular, the most confident of them all.  Instead, I think this man just really needs a friend.  So I took a deep breath, held it, and walked right at him.  He looked up at me in surprise.  I said loudly, "That perfume smells great.  Please spray me."  The Perfume Guy burst into tears and then sprayed the perfume all over me.  The smell made my eyes tear as well and then we were both crying.  "Thank you," I choked out as I wondered if I would ever not smell like this perfume again.  

The Perfume Guy then jumped up and started spraying people walking by again, and though they dodged him, he didn't seem to mind.  

So kids, even if it means smelling like axe gorilla mist cantelope body spray all day, do something kind for a stranger.  It is the holidays after all.  And you could make someone's day that really needed it.

December 22, 2013

The Nerd Card

There is something that has been bothering me. Lately I have heard a lot of people using the term "nerd" in vain. For example, a girl will say something that could be categorized as nerdy (such as an interest in comics, or hobbits, or storm troopers) and then follow that with a loud explanation of "oops, just revealed my nerd card!" or "I know, I'm such a NERD!" As if it was a mistake that they said the nerdy thing. Or even worse, proclaiming what they are about to say is nerdy so that everyone knows. As if EVERYONE doesn't already think all of those things are awesome. Cause all of those things ARE awesome. But these things were not always thought of as awesome.  Or cool. Nerd is the new cool.

Listen. Real nerds don't proclaim their nerdiness to everyone- you know why? Cause then they'd get beat up on the playground. Real nerds stay invisible and unseen. Slowly plotting and becoming smarter and growing up to rule the cool kids. I wore full headgear, had backne by the age of 10, and literally thought I could be one of the Ghostbusters. But I did not brandish it. No.

When a girl says "I'm going to play the nerd card" like she's embarrassed and then makes a reference to comics in front of a group of guys, she knows exactly what she is doing. Bitch you're not embarrassed. In fact, you are smug. You know this nerdiness is now hot to guys and you are smug. Somewhere between Steven Urkel and The Big Bang Theory nerds became cool. So the cool kids took it over. And now the nerds are just cool kids in disguise. I say thee nay, cool kids. Take off your fake glasses. It's no longer a feat that you got the hot girl or guy even though you are a nerd because you are JUST AS HOT.

And don't get me started with the sexy nerd Halloween costumes I saw milling about this year, for boys and girls. I should take this moment to admit that a nerd was one of my last minute costume options so perhaps I too fell into this misguided fake nerd phenomenon. But then again I still wear my retainers at night, and that is real. That is very, very real.

The bottom line is, the things real nerds have liked for years, nay centuries, are now cool to everyone. Let us all stop calling ourselves nerds in fake embarrassment or exuberant pride in order to sound cool. Let us stop using it to look more attractive to the other sex (if only nerds of yesteryear could know that one day that would work.) Let us instead just be ourselves and know that there is a nerd in all of us.