Tuesday, January 31, 2006


An excerpt from Alaska is in the Heart article:

Marcelo Quinto II of Juneau, Alaska, is Filipino.

He is also Tlingit Indian. "I'm Indopino," he declares. "That mixture didn't go over very well here in this town for a very long time. People didn't want to see a white lady marry an Asian or an Indian. To do so would be to cause yourself a whole lot of grief."

Quinto's Filipino father went to college but could only find work as a cannery worker or a bartender because of the color of his skin. His Tlingit mother, a proud member of the second largest indigenous Alaskan population after the Eskimos, banded together with other Native wives to raise money to build the Filipino Community Hall in downtown Juneau. Growing up a mestizo, Quinto wasn't welcome in the Alaskan Native Brotherhood, who recognized only full-blooded Indians. Mixed-bloods were not considered Indians until they turned 18. "That law did not change until 1962," he continues. "I was blown away by that. It even came to the point where my mother could not get services because she was married to a non-Native."

Now 64 years old, Quinto is one of the many Filipinos whose stories I have traveled to Alaska to see depicted on stage. He has come to the Perseverance Theatre in nearby Douglas to tell it like it is about the Alaskan manongs (Ilocano for "oldtimers") who have played a role in his life. "Because we are half-Filipinos, the oldtimers in this town were basically our uncles when we were growing up," he tells me. "It was quite an extended family in that sense. Those ties are here today, 65 or 70 years later. You can't break them."

After reading this, I looked up Marcelo Quinto in the phone book and found him. To make up for last Saturday's set-back at the community hall, I got a breakthrough. We're meeting this Friday for lunch, and I have work cut out for me. After pep talks from both the professor and my roommate, I feel like I have my grasp back and a better sense of direction. The prof's helping me set up a meeting with a woman from SeaAlaska, the Native corporation, and I asked one of the Filipina high school teachers on a lunch date next Monday. For a minute there, I got so scared that the research would not work out in time for the conference, and I'd have to scrap my presentation. Usually ethnographies take 2+ years. I'm trying to come up with it in 4 weeks, albeit a preliminary one.

why, oh why, did I come to the Land of the Midnight Sun
-Trinidad Rojo


Monday, January 30, 2006

Help! I need old people!

What I Heard Part 2: At the Filipino Community Hall last Saturday, they had a welcoming party for 3 local soldiers back from Iraq. Alaska Senator Kim Elton and his wife showed up, as did Juneau mayor Bruce Botelho and 2 other state representatives. In his speech, one of the soldiers said, "What I miss most about being over there are the kids. They were so happy to get our packages. Every day, it was like Christmas. They were so excited to see us. It's not true that everyone hates us."

As for hoping to find useful contacts for my research project, that was a bust. I'm so disappointed and stressed out about what to do. That night, I had a recurring nightmare of my teeth coming out. It sounds silly, but it's horrifying. They felt really loose so I started pulling some of them out and suddenly, I was spitting and all my teeth were falling out of my mouth. A dentist stitched them back in my gums with black thread, but when I brushed my teeth, they fell out again. I get this dream once in awhile when I'm really stressed. Usually, I've got my jaws clenched so ferociously that they start to crumble inside my mouth and still I can't stop until I'm grinding them into pieces. It's gross and disturbing and the anxiety lingers all day.

Luckily, my friends came over last night, and we all watched I Heart Huckabees. That pulled me out of my icky funk. And this morning, great news! My best friend from Vienna is flying in next Monday to visit for 3 weeks!!!! We haven't seen each other since New Years 2005 in New Orleans. Usually we visit every winter and summer break but this past year had gotten crazy for both of us. I am sooo excited!!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What Have You Heard About Iraq?

Cris, Vinodini, Eve, and I volunteered for the Juneau production of "What I Heard About Iraq", a play based on Eliot Weinberger's article. The show, like the article, utilizes actual direct quotes from military personnel, politicians, US soldiers, and Iraqi citizens, interspersed with music, video footage, and photographs. It was first adapted and directed by Simon Levy in Los Angeles, and a local theatre along with Veterans for Peace Chapter 100 produced it here. The performance was very intense and powerful. Prior to the government deciding to go to war, I had been involved with political activism. I attended the United for Peace and Justice-sponsored peace rally in NYC in February 2002 that spanned the width of 3 Manhattan avenues and the length of at least 30 blocks. A freelance photojournalist friend from Paris accompanied me to take pictures for the articles I was writing for my campus paper. For months, I had 24/7 news channels on, 24/7. Then, we went to war, and I stopped following the updates and news talk shows because I had felt so sickened. Last night, the memories of what I'd read and heard so voraciously before were reproduced, all at once and overwhelming.

Afterward, there was a discussion. A Vietnam vet said this generation of troops are professional soldiers, whereas he and many of his era were draftees. A current National Guard sergeant who is being redeployed soon said he was disgusted by the material, especially quotes from US soldiers. He said they sounded like fascist, Nazi stormtroopers, when this image was nothing like the people he worked with and knew. He demanded the audience recognize the troops' service to them. A therapist said she had patients who were war veterans suffering "cognitive dissonance": opposing realities between who they felt they should be/were and who they were as soldiers. And she remarked that the soldiers aren't serving her because she doesn't want them over there. The last person to speak said he's a nobody, and he bets most people in the room are nobodies, so all this discussion doesn't really matter because wars are fought for money and strategic economic reasons, and corporations are responsible for ultimately starting and ending wars so there's nothing ordinary people can do.

Like I said, I've been largely ignorant of what's going over there now, so I am curious what the dialogue is between people for/against keeping American military in Iraq? How would pulling out affect that country's stability and regeneration now that the war(s) has totally wrecked their infrastructure? Is that a problem for the UN or Iraqis themselves or who? I don't really know what my opinion is because I'm not all that informed anymore.. I would just like not to ignore accountability.

I also want to say that I have a number of friends and cousins who are in the army and were sent to/are there in that region. They are in their early 20s; I don't know the statistics but I'm sure many of the soldiers are in that age range. My friends joined the military to pay for college, to escape small towns, to get a free ride traveling the world and have exciting adventures, to become more disciplined. Of all the reasons they gave me, nobody had said, "For democratic ideals. For serving the country." These may have been part of the package, but they weren't truthfully main driving motivations. Idealistic verbage keeps being bandied around because it sounds noble and makes any critic seem evil and coldhearted, and I think part of the reason I got so disillusioned with political journalism was because of extremist rhetoric rather than down to earth, rational discussions.

Last summer, one of my friends, who joined the army so he could afford a degree but still hasn't been able to finish in 6 years b/c of training and deployment, was home from Afghanistan for a few weeks before being sent back. At a BBQ, I heard him say, "We are taught to kill them first before they kill us. It's either their life or mine so yes, I will shoot them first. I have to think that way or I'll die."

What have you heard?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Juneau Snowstorm

I was so pissed about Blockbuster's that I forgot to mention this crazy snowstorm that hit us on Tuesday. This picture is from Anchorage, but it looks close to what I experienced. I unfortunately had to drive to the Valley and Auke Bay in the cantankerous Canner. I slid down the suicide hill known as Basin Road until I ended up completely sideways on the narrow street, my face staring down the rest of the deadly decline. Once on Egan--the only main road through Juneau--I started slipping dangerously around. So much for 4-wheel drive. Maybe just the notification light works and not the actual function. I passed 4 accidents that day and must have made the Sign of the Cross 50x. Because that works so much better than keeping both hands gripped on the wheel. That night, I was walking in the Vista House yard, and the snow came up to my knees, almost 2 feet. It's stopped snowing now thank goodness. I am completely unsympathetic to cross country ski fans.

Mt. Washington Blockbuster can go to hell

And so can my exboyfriend. I found a charge on my credit card earlier this week from Blockbuster's. Puzzled, I drove to the downtown Juneau location on my way home from work to ask the manager there about it. He discerned that the charge came from Mt. Washington, OH. Which just so happens to be where my ex lives. My ex used to be on my account as a secondary borrower. And when I'd personally cancelled my account, the manager with whom I requested it coincidentally happens to be my ex's friend. Mother. Fucker.

So I called them yesterday and explained my situation to the employee. She put me on hold where I imagine she recounted my story to said manager, who in horror of being caught with his inethical misuse of my account, told her to get rid of me. They dropped my call 4x. I even heard a voice laugh and say, "Just hang up." Finally he gets on and says, "I don't know what to tell you except I'm sorry," sounding embarrassed to be talking to me but not very sorry at all. So basically, the charge stays on my card until my ex returns the videos. If he doesn't by Feb. 10th, then it's my responsibility to call back for a refund. He explained otherwise, I might get double refunded, and they can't be having that because it's not like I'm a SuperSonic. Yes, he actually said that.

I was so pissed with his playful demeanor and verbal "whatever" shrugging. He consciously remembers me asking to cancel it, he knowingly allowed my ex to continue renting under my name and credit for 7 months, and now he's caught and he's just like Woopsy Daisy, Tee fucking Hee. I am seriously about to write Howard's CrimeStoppers in Cincinnati or the Enquirer or Judge Judy I swear to God. I already wrote a letter to corporate.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Eve's Undead Party

Eve celebrated her 23rd bday by hosting an undead-themed party this past Saturday. That's her on the left. She has a thing for Buffy. The guy is one of my roommates and was gutsy/uncreative enough to wear just his boxers as his costume.

Zombie sluts. Cris came as an Egyptian/Cleopatra ensemble. I wanted to be a mummy but only found enough bandages to wrap around my wrists. So I dabbed them with fake blood, rimmed my eyes all over with black, and went as heroin suicide chic.

Even Joe Juneau made an appearance. A pizza was delivered with a signed birthday card from Juneau's founding father. What a guy!

There used to be 3 girls sitting on the couch, but Goble ate one of them.

Friday, January 20, 2006


has some sort of disease where you hallucinate & start to not believe in love, but after a year or two, or even sometimes ten or twenty, it cures itself & all that's left are a few little red spots that twinge & ache whenever you get too near someone else that has the disease & it's all you can do to stop from reaching out & holding them close

When I was 15, I adamantly believed that there was no such thing as true love. I proselytized this philosophy to my friends and even guys I dated. I said love starts out as mere infatuation and ends up, at best, as companionship. True love isn't this static stage that exists in perpetuity. If it existed at all, it's in a blink of a lifetime, an ephemeral moment, before deteriorating into banal reality or explosive arguments, infidelity or insecurities, old age and alzheimer's. Forever and always are sappy romantics' favorite verbal candy. I was cynical because of really screwed up family drama. The kind of deceptions and betrayals and violations you'd find in a sensational Lifetime tv movie. I didn't think the disease would ever go away. But for better and worse, life so often transcends our initial intentions and alters our plans.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Why does Danger Dog mean more to me than school or church?"
"Because those things suck."
~The Simpsons

Staying home for the 2nd day in a row is boring. I bet it's horrible for these dogs that I'm supposed to be walking once a day. They look at me with hopeful eyes, my every movement (usually to get some water to drink more meds) translated in their eager minds as a trip to Cope Park. Poor girls. The bunny, guinea pig, and gerbils don't care that I'm languishing in blankets, drowsy from tylenol and antibiotics.

Turns out I had a kidney infection and not just the flu. I even had some bacteria in my bloodstream.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

i feel lousy

I am not a sickly person. When I was younger, my mom used to whisk me to my great-uncle's house while my parents and sister suffered communal illnesses. When flu epidemics would sweep the school, it only affected me as a convenient excuse to stay home. So when I actually am sick, I get this nasty feeling that I'm lying or overreacting. You can also factor in a history of restaurant employment, and managers in that industry never believe in sick days as a rule. Which is gross. Cuz they deal in food service.

Today, I'm holed up under blankets on my housesit couch experiencing chills, a fever, and an icky sinus pressure. My awesome roommate is stopping by with soup and orange juice soon.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

"If it don't kill ya, then you ate it at Costa's"

I went to the office this morning with the noble intentions of doing work for leaving early yesterday, but even though it's not God's day of rest, he gave me a break anyway. Bill, a coworker from Sitka who was here for our staff retreat, walked in shortly after I did looking for our supervisor with whom he'd missed having lunch. He couldn't reach her on either home or cell numbers, so I invited him to lunch at Costa's. A unique Juneau diner for a coupla reasons. For one thing, there's no menu. There's a suggested Specials du Jour which could include reindeer sausage or mango almond pancakes, but you can make up whatever you want because more than likely, they've got the ingredients. You write whatever pleases your palette on post-it notes, shout "order up!" (if they're busy), and your food gets made. You get your own coffee and utensils and condiments (from 10 types of hot sauce to organic jam), and when you finish your meal, don't be looking for a bill. You throw what you owe in a bucket, fish out change if necessary, and simply leave. Nobody micromanages you; you're assumed to be a decent, honest adult, and if you turn out not to be, well, Juneau's small enough for them to brand your face in a memory's most-wanted list. You gotta love the small town honor system.

On weekends, they celebrate "Planet of the Crepes", so Bill ordered an Olympus crepe of chicken, spinach, feta cheese, & sun dried tomatoes, and I opted out of gastronomic travel and stuck with corned beef hash, two eggs over hard, and buttered toast. The owner's name is Colette, and besides serving good food, she also dishes out a tell-it-like-it-is attitude littered with deadpan humor. Today, my mild-mannered and conservative coworker asked her about her business, and she replied, "It must be doing well. It's kept me out of jail." You could see his facial muscles working out an appropriate expression while his brain discerned whether or not she was serious.
After lunch, I took him to my housesit on Douglas Island, and we walked the 2 dogs on Sandy Beach, which has a spectacularly better view than Juneauside. The "sand" is made up of pulverized rocks and ore left over from the Treadwell gold mines, which caved in after a flood in 1917, and you can still see the ruins on the interpretive historic trail. This was our backdrop where we played catch with the puppy while the senior explored and peed on every twig, and Bill taught me how to skip stones on the Gastineau Channel. I wished for the bazillionth time since moving here that I'd brought my digital camera to capture the beauty of Alaskan moments. A lab black as a favorite sin, hellbent on catching a tennis ball, clumps of watery sand flying or sticking to her fur for the ride. The glittering trails of soft rebounds made on the water from perfect rocks after a perfect release. A coupla Saturday folk red-nosed and -fingered, thinking about their dimensions in the world. A moment of movement, of leaping and throwing, of muscles and vocal chords humming with use. While the still dregs of a once-illustrious era, vigorous and loud in its own time, continued to rust silently behind us.


until it passes

I am bombarding my immune system with Simply Nutritious© megasize juices, Echinacea pills, and exercise in frigid Aurora Borealis-inducing nights. Starting Tuesday night, I started feeling ill, and by yesterday my head was positively swimming with exhaustion. I sank into a nap, intending to wake up in 2 hours for a friend's going-away potluck, but woke up 12 hours later instead. I think my adrenaline from last week has worn off, and the new year's momentum--showing no signs of abating--has run off with my energy. It didn't help either that I hadn't spoken with Seamus in a week. He finally reached me Friday morning; he'd given up on the phone cards which for some reason would only rarely connect to Alaska, and just used coins instead. Which meant for like 7 euros, we got to speak pleasantries for 5 minutes. He called again this morning, and we barely finished the small talk before being rushed into "I love you"s, knowing we'd be cut off any moment, which we were. Not really much of a conversation with your long-distance boyfriend but what can I do? Next Friday, he's getting a cell phone that I'll be able to call so until then, I'll just ride out this sickness until it passes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

it's been awhile

When I was younger, I used to think in story-form. Whatever mundane or extraordinary thing happening around me would be translated in my head as ongoing literature. So for example, I might be arguing heatedly with my mother, and I would be thinking, “…at times, a muted perseverance, and others, a wild thrashing to stay afloat, like a castaway fallen overboard into deep dark waters.” See, I was a very melodramatic child. Anyhow, last night I was traveling in my thoughts and came upon this, “…and all of us, self-exiles of love, hoping enough time spent under foreign skies would return us to healed homes and hearts.” My consequent dreams troubled me; I woke up despondent. I thought, I have known a grief so hard it dredged my insides with hooks, the way rivers are when people are missing too long. What a thing to first think upon waking. I guess I am still a melodramatic woman.

"How are you doing?" they ask me today.
I can't think of anything to say.

Monday, January 09, 2006

chasing after time

I feel like I am running after 2006 it’s going so fast. The new year has just started, and I’m already crazy busy.

My workload is temporarily doubled because it’s expanding with the start of a new semester. I may be sent to Ketchikan at the end of the month because the new hire there quit to move down south.

I submitted an abstract to present under a subsistence session for the Alaska Anthropology Conference in Kodiak this March. That gives me less than 2 months to begin and finish research that I just pulled out of my butt last Friday afternoon. Preliminary investigation at the State Historical Library yielded a couple useful photographs and only one book previously written on the subject. I have a great big black hole in recorded ethnohistory to fill which makes it easy on one hand since virtually everything I can find is original and new, but also makes work more challenging since I’ll have to be extra resourceful and adept at getting accurate and provocative information.

Next week, I’ll be the TA for an Anthropology of Religion seminar-styled course. That means that aside from catching up on the classic texts, I have to become acquainted with contemporary subject matter enough to be at least two steps ahead of mostly non-traditional students (i.e. a decade or two older than me and therefore could more easily call me out on screw-ups).

I also started doing a work exchange at the neighborhood gym. A four-hour closing shift every Thursday night gives me unlimited access to the facilities. As hectic as my schedule is, I wonder if I’m ultimately just donating 16 hours of my time every month to save them on labor and employee insurance costs.

Then again, I did squeeze in something fun this weekend: I watched my favorite story live on stage at Marlintini’s (yes, of infamous US Men of Steel Male Dance Revue fame). Hedwig & The Angry Inch gave their last Juneau performance this past Saturday before touring Seattle and other cities. It rawked. Despite knowing every single word to every song and practically every monologue, I sat there squinched into a non-seat (the crack between two chairs pushed as close together as possible) so I could be in the 2nd row and loved every single moment. It’s like being 11 years old and watching a real life Cinderella dance with her prince just three feet in front of your idolizing eyes. Except this Cinderella is an East German transvestite whose prince stole the good stuff and ran.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

why i don't want to be responsible for teaching kids about life

Kid #1: My classmate, Sam, said a curse word today.
Me: Why?
Kid #1: He said it to someone else in the class.
Teen: What was the word? (Which I instantly realized was not very smart of her to encourage a child to repeat profanity, but at that point, it’d been asked, and sometimes taking your hands off the handlebars is funny.)
Kid #2: She can’t SAY it!
Me: Alright, what letter does it start with? (Okay, I too easily fall into my role of provocateur)
Kid #1: “F”
Me & Teen: What?!?
Kid #2: No, no! He didn’t say THAT word!

Everyone older than 10 years old is looking confused because we could not think of another bad word that started with F besides the f-bomb.
Kid #1: It’s another word for “fat”.
Now we are super perplexed and look at each other for reassurance that we are a solidarity in ignorance.
Kid #2: F-A…. G.

The kids start laughing uproariously, and the teen and I are dead staring at each other in mirthful surprise because we don’t know what to make of these kids who think the synonym for fat is a derogatory term for gays. We’re sending telepathic morse codes. Should we tell them what fag means?

Hypothetical Scenario:
F-A-G doesn't mean fat. It's a bad word for someone who likes someone else of the same gender.
Kid #1: What's gender?
Me: The sex you identify with. Like male or female.
Kids: (pieces of the complicated world falling more into place) Ohhh.
The next day... my phone rings at work.
Enraged parent: Why were you discussing sex with my 5th grade child??!
Me: Fuck.

So should we let them keep assuming? But what if they want to be mean one day and call someone fat and use the wrong word like Sam did? It would be a whole class of confused kids. Then the 16 year old girl and I start laughing because we don't know what to think or do in this bizarre situation and neither of us are parents and want to have to deal with explaining this, and the kids laugh some more because they’re just pleased we finally got it.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

love & loving

To love as an act and not just a feeling, which is fickle and can change like today’s peaceful confetti-tossed snow to tomorrow’s ambitious rain-soaked winds. To love as writing and talking and being the person I want to be rather than love as a thing to bestow with the obligations and reciprocities attached to gift-giving. To love not as, ‘See, this is for you, and I heap it on your doorstep. Do you give me yours in return then? And will you always stay this same person, the same fortunate recipient of my present?’ But as, ‘I am communicating my thoughts and desires and ideas and listening to all of yours, and I keep you in mind as I go through day to day until we see each other again.’

So despite the time and space, know that I am loving you. Through six and a half months, 196 days, the passing of two seasons. Seven countries, 5,100 miles as the bird flies, the distance of nine time zones. Emotion alone renders this a fearful endeavor, feeling the immensity of obstacles. The choosing and the action make it a beautiful one, nurturing the present and creating possibilities.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

things'll be great when you're downtown

see that mountain in the back? i live on the highest street built on it. the red arrow is one of our office windows. the one i look out from faces the east side of the picture.

Today was my first day driving in 2006 and exactly two weeks since the last time I got behind the wheel. I didn’t drive in Seattle, which is for the best since the plethora of streets, highways, vehicles and exits would have frustrated me. In Juneau, there is one main road that runs from one end of the city to the other. It’s called “the Road”, and it follows the waterfront, and you can’t get lost. If you do, it’s because you must have crashed into the Channel and a lungful of water can make anyone befuddled.

We braved downtown Seattle just once while I was there to visit Pike Market and the Elliot Bay Bookstore. Since we parked at Seattle Center, it was some twenty odd blocks or so, one way. The entirety of downtown Juneau on the other hand can be walked in fifteen minutes and that includes getting chai tea at Heritage Coffee.

Things I Did in Seattle

Look Ma, I learned something new!
I went rollerblading for the first time and only fell twice. The first time was because I tried to U-turn in high traffic and consequently fell on my ass. The second time was when Seamus unexpectedly picked me up from behind then accidentally dropped me on my finger. It was pretty funny in a 'oh, my finger is bleeding' funny.

I learned how to play Mexican Domino Train and a card game called Wizard. I kicked butt.

I tried my hand at Super Nintendo's Bomberman. It kicked my butt.

Let's go to the movies:
King Kong: I really didn't want to watch this because I knew I was going to bawl, but Seam's family goes to the movies as a Christmas tradition, and this was what they picked. Sure enough, I cried three times. And not like inconspicuously. I mean gut-wrenching sobs of despair. Kong was just a beautifully big gorilla who was rightfully king of the jungle and had no chance whatsoever of surviving the city and all he wanted was a piece of loveliness he could never have. Argh.
Memoirs of a Geisha: Meh. Book's a gazillion times better. And they used virtually all Chinese actors for a plot all about Japan. Asia isn't one country/culture. But Zhiyi Zhang was magnificently pretty as always, and I wouldn't complain if she hypothetically had to play me in a film.
The Island: Sci-fi meets pro-lifers.
Overnight: Documentary about the ego of the guy who wrote the screenplay for Boondock Saints. Made by two bitter ex-friends who were fired from managing said guy's band. The whole thing cements my lack of desire for the Hollywood life and validates why I left the ritzy, image-obsessed Los Angeles scene.
Melinda and Melinda: Woody Allen movie. The dialogue felt really stilted, and I didn't finish it. But the theory behind it is interesting and reminds me of a quote I really like: "To those who feel, the world is a tragedy. To those who think, the world is a comedy."
The Interpreter: Decent but not riveting. If put in a position where you could murder a despot who'd committed atrocious crimes against humanity, would you do it, or would you trust international courts to render justice? I thought of third world politics and how my grandfather's cousin was assassinated as soon as he stepped off a plane, returning to his homeland after a self-imposed exile.

Old Things in New Clothes:
salsa dancing at a great venue on Capitol Hill
eating my favorite things at Chipotle's: barbacoa burrito bowl with chips & guac
making sinigang and nilaga for Seamus & his family
New Year's Eve Rolling Stones theme party
bubble tea!

Finished Reading:
The Sparrow
From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

Currently re-reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and will probably be juggling that with the much recommended Peace Like a River.