Saturday, March 8, 2008

Speed of Life

Thanatos and Eros

I've always found the late hours of the night to be some of the most reflective and peaceful times of my life. I suppose it helps that I've always been a night person, and that everyone around me are usually sleeping at this time, journeying into dream land. When I was small child, I used to pretend to be asleep in my room, waiting for the lights to go out in the rest of the house. While everyone else was sleeping, I was awake, exploring my house as if it were another world, the familiar transformed into the alien and magical, especially under the soft light of the ethereal moon. And so here I am, once more, finding myself with a little bit of time to think about the significant events that have occurred over the past week or so. So much happens at the speed of life, and so much changes with the unstoppable passage of time.

So I finally, got over my cold, and I'm still not sure if that Zicam worked or not. I can say that aside from the Tylenol Extra Strength and the 1 horrible tasting Halls ginger ale that I took at the beginning of my illness, I have been taking only Zicam. Two bottles worth. Did it help? I'm not sure. I can say it's worth further investigation, but I don't plan on getting another cold anytime soon...not that one can actually plan on getting a cold.

My cold was nothing compared to the news that my uncle had passed away so suddenly last Monday. I was out of town at work, so I didn't get the news til Wednesday when I was off from work. I drove over to the wake that day, and we buried him last Thursday. He wasn't really my uncle, but a family friend. I've known him for close to ten years, when I first met him through one of my best friends. It was her uncle, actually, and when I visited her during spring break one year, her aunt and uncle welcomed me into their home and lives, and they've treated me like family ever since.

Whenever I go to Houston or drive through on my way to somewhere else, I always made it a point to stop and visit them. While free food was always a good incentive, it was the sense of home that I got from them that kept me going back. My aunt was the loud and outgoing one, always giving the orders; my uncle was her polar opposite, quiet, silent, but always in the background, making sure everyone was welcomed and was safe. He always reached out to people, giving them a chance and a helping hand. He was a kind man, so thoughtful. English wasn't his first language, and it showed with his accent. But that didn't stop him from reaching out to people.

I remember years ago at one of the many parties my aunt often throws every month or so, there was a huge influx of Asians and Spaniards. There were two new people at the party, and they were both WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) from the Mid West. They stuck out amid the throng of mostly short, loud people, speaking primarily in foreign tongues. My uncle spent most of his time, talking to them, with his broken English, engaging them in the party festivities while I sat on a barstool, drinking a screwdriver and flirting with the a pretty Japanese girl who studying to become a teacher. I thought, that's my uncle, always trying to make sure everyone was fine. During the difficult times of my uncle's passing, those two Mid Western fellas were among the mourners; one was a pall bearer. It's only natural, I suppose, as this fella had become my uncle's son in law a few years back.

Another time last year, when I was driving though town, I stopped by their place to take them out to lunch. I had to wait for a little while as my aunt said my uncle was cutting the lawn. After 20 minutes, I realized that I had not seen my uncle in the front lawn. I looked out the back window, and he wasn't there either. I asked my aunt, which lawn is he cutting, and she told me it was the lawn at the end of the street. Seeing the confused look on my face, she explained, the old lady down the street had recently lost her husband to a heart attack; my uncle had taken it upon himself to go cut her lawn as she had no one else who could do it for her. I smiled and thought to myself, that's my uncle. A few months later that elderly lady went to a rest home, where she later passed away. Her home still has a for sale sign on the lawn, and I wondered, who cuts the lawn now?

At the wake, there were a lot of people. We heard stories about his many acts of gentle kindness that endeared him to many. We also heard stories about his young life that totally changed my perception of him. Apparently, as a young man, my uncle smoked weed and played lots of practical jokes on people. He rearranged the letters on the sign of the Ladies Auxiliary Snow White Ball so that on the night of the ball the sign was now: Ladiees Auxiliary Now With Balls.

I suppose I was in denial until the next day at the funeral. When my cousin gave her eulogy, it was beautiful; when she started to cry, so did I. It really came to me then, that my uncle, this man whose cheerful smile and easy going laugh, was gone. I hadn't cried in years, but that day I did. And to hear my aunt's strangled wails only made me cry harder, my heart heavy and hurting. I thought about my own dad's death, and how those memories now made feel that sorrow that I had felt all those years ago. As we were leaving the church, I had pulled myself together, and drove the long, slow road to the where my uncle would be laid to rest. It was amid a vast space with lots of trees and grass and beautiful sculptures of angels and pagodas.

He was laid to rest on a low rising hill. As they lowered his casket, I felt my heart sink underneath the weight of immeasurable sorrow. I cried again, as I realized, I would never, ever see my uncle again, and I was so sorry that I never got to tell him one more time just how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. He was the closest anyone had come to being a father figure to me after having lost mine all those years ago. Oh, how I wished for just one more day...just another opportunity to spend some more time with him.

Later that day, I went into work; I thought about calling in and spending the day with my aunt, but there were all ready a lot of people who surrounded her. Besides, I thought that I had all ready cried enough, and work would help me cope with the loss. At work, one of my coworkers asked me if I was all right, but I just nodded yes and kept to myself the rest of the day. I knew that I would spend a lot of time with my aunt and the rest of the mourners, and life does go on whether we want it to or not.

Being Catholics, there were nine days of prayer starting the night after the burial. I made it on night 3, and tonight was night 9. I had forgotten just how long and drawn out Catholic prayers are. That third night, I drove into town late after work. I was a half hour late, and I thought, well, the prayers must be over soon. I had just sat in the chair when I heard the prayer group leader say, we will now end with 3 Hail Marys and 3 Our Fathers. So we did all three...and the prayers continued on for another half hour! I was thinking, good God! Hey, prayer leader lady, you said we only had 3 sets of prayers left! I felt foolish as I had forgotten that anything involving rosaries usually meant a long, long time of praying. If this was day 3, I was all ready dreading day 9. But, like tonight, soon as the prayers were over, we started in the pot luck buffet and they broke out the karaoke machine and set up the poker and mah jong tables. We were in party mode for the next 4 hours til after midnight.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate my uncle's life and memory. I also thought it was the perfect way to comfort my aunt and help her adjust to such a terrible, vast loss. Though, I'm not a religious person, I could see how my aunt's faith did give her some strength to endure. I was also thinking, wow, I'm so glad I'm not Catholic with all these prayers. At one point during the prayer marathon tonight, I thought, good Lord, it's been two hours all ready of reciting the rosary and litany for the dead. Surely with all these prayers, any time now, we'll all start ascending to the heavens like the Virgin did all those millennias ago!

Now, I'm home, all alone, late at night. Somehow, this feels right, as I now have time to write and think about what's gone on these past few weeks so far. I also have a renewed appreciation for life. You never know when it's your time to go, so live each day as if it were last...I'd like to think that my uncle is in a better place. I'm only sure that he had left behind such a great and positive impact on my life and those who came to know him. I will miss him, and I will forever be thankful for having had him in my life.

Natural Blues

With all the excitement surrounding this year's Presidential Election, I was compelled to take part in the primaries. Now, just to clarify, the General Election, which takes place in Nov of every even year, is the only election that really decides which of our national leaders take office, be it in Congress--the national legislature, or by an extent, our President.

Every two years, we vote for our Congressmen, our representatives in the lower house, whose numbers in Congress depend on the population of the state. The bigger the state, the bigger the number of representatives of that state in the House of Representatives. Currently, the max number of Representatives is 435, so the more populous states get more representatives out of the 435 total seats.

Every six years, we vote for 1/3 of our Senators. There are 100 Senators in the Senate, giving each state an equal 2 representatives in the upper house. Senators serve for 6 years. It's staggered so that every two years, 1/3 of Senators and all Representatives seats are up for election. Every four years, we vote for our President...sort of.

This is a Presidential Election year, which means not only do we vote for our Representatives and 1/3 of the States will be voting for their Senators, we all get to vote for the President, somewhat indirectly...And it all takes place in Nov of this year. So what the heck is up with all these primaries and caucuses taking place now?

Well, basically, primaries and caucuses are a political party's way of picking their man (or woman) to run for the General Election in November. Ever notice those blue and red spots on the map every news channel has painted over part of the US? Well, the blue represents the Democrats--one of the major political parties in the US. The red represents the Republicans--the other major political party. Right now, the Democrats and Republicans are holding these primaries and caucuses as a way to find their strongest contender for the General Election. At stake this year is the office of the President.

Every state runs their own primaries differently; after all, it's really just a local beauty pageant whose aim is to weed out the uglies in preparation for the big pageant in Nov when one winner will be picked. I am an independent--neither a Democrat nor Republican nor a member of the other minority parties like the Libertarians and Green Party. But, for this election, I decided to participate in the primaries...the Democratic Primary.

Why? Because for the first time in US history, a black man and a woman are the strongest candidates to represent a major political party for the upcoming General Election. This is the first time in history that either a woman or a minority has a real chance at becoming the leader of our nation. Texas has an open primary, which means that I don't have to be a member of the Democratic or Republican Party to vote in the primaries. It only means that I can participate only in either the Democratic or Republican Primary, not both at the same time. Once I voted in the primary, I became affiliated with that party for the rest of the year. This means that since I voted in the Democratic Primary, I am affiliated with the Democratic Party for the rest of the year. This means that if there is a run off election (an election to break the tie between two contenders), I can only participate if that run off election is between two Democrats. I can't participate in any Republican elections for the rest of the year.

Since I voted in the primary, my role is done, right? Wrong! In Texas, the process of picking candidates in the Democratic party is two fold. Known as the Texas Two Step, Democrats vote first in the primaries when the polls are opened from 7am to 7pm; then at 7:15 pm, we get to vote AGAIN!!!! What? Let me clarify, if I can.

At the upcoming national conventions, the big parties--the Democrats and the Republicans--finally pick who will represent them in the Nov General Election. Each State is allocated a number of delegates (votes) to help decide who will represent the party at the General Election. In Texas, those delegates are decided at the caucus. The what? The caucus is the Democratic party election that takes place at night, after the primary closes. The caucus is basically when people who voted earlier in the primary come out and get together that evening to pick their delegates, who will go on to the national convention. To participate in the caucus, you have to have voted in the primary.

The number of delegates is proportional to the population of the voters; bigger populations in certain areas mean more delegates from those areas. Winning the Texas Primary means nothing, really, because the delegates needed are voted on at the caucus later that night. So why vote in the primary in the first place? Because voting in the primary means that you've chosen to participate in the party, and you now have a right to show up later that evening and help choose your delegates. Your chosen delegates go to the big convention and pick the party's strongest contender to run for the office of the President.

As this was my first venture into the political party system, it was exciting to see so many people, young and old, of all races turn out to participate. Later that night, as I went back to caucus, I was astounded at the number of people who showed up. The caucus experience was basically like this: If you like Obama, then come to this corner where all his supporters are standing. If you like Clinton, then go the other corner where her supporters are gathered. Then comes the voting, where the official tries to see who has the most supporters. Before the counting, people go back and forth between the groups, trying to convince the others to come on over to their side and the reasons why they should come on over. If at the counting that there is no clear majority, we start going back and forth again, campaigning really, with your fellow neighbors. At the end of the process, the group with the most supporters win, and then they pick their delegates who will go on to the national convention to vote for that candidate the supporters picked.

It was so exciting to see and hear so many people trying to explain their reasons for supporting their candidates. This was grass roots movement at it's finest, where the people actually get a say in who they want to run their government. To tell the truth, it really doesn't matter to me if Texas is a blue state or a red state...though blue is my favorite color. What really matters is that I am taking part in choosing who our next leaders will be, and I have a voice in the government, and I have exercised my rights proudly. Now, I can feel so superior to my non voting, non participating friends when I tell them to stop bitching about government if you didn't vote. Don't complain, just do it!

It's going to be interesting as the race is too close to call between these two Democrat candidates...this could lead to some trouble, some natural blues. The infighting could clear the way for the Republican candidate to win the General Election, as he does not have to worry about his party splitting it's support (and voters).

This reminds, Tatas choses a winner of the Freakin’ Green Elf Shorts. I'm excited about that...

Caller I, geeezzz...

Earlier this evening, I got a call from some stranger. Some man who's opening line was an exasperated and angry, "I've been trying to get a hold of you! You told me that your wife was out of town. When are you coming over?"

To which I replied, "Sir, I'm afraid you've the wrong number"...

Silence, followed by, "Oh, I just hate married men, don't you?", a pause followed by a cheery, "Hey, are you married?"

To which I replied once more, "Sir, I'm afraid you've the wrong number"...

The stranger responded, "Well, I'm just looking for someone to play with."

And so I replied, "Sir, perhaps you can join a bowling league. You can rent the shoes or bring your own; there'll be lots of people playing with big balls. Have a good night."

Then I hung up and proceeded with typing this post, trying not to think of the adulterers, or his poor out of town wife, probably banging her lover, unbeknown to her that he will be doing the same. Or perhaps they were not adulterers but poker game buddies...who knows? I blame the night for my twisted imagination at this time.


  1. That really facinates me, your voting system and such. It's a little old fashion having to count the people in the two corners by hand.

    Why does it have to be so complicated though?

    Are you supporting the minority or the woman? *smiles*

    I took a test once to find out where I was in the US system and apparently I'm a centrist bordering on republican teheee

  2. CP, this was just political parties picking their candidates to run for the real election in November. I usually don't participate in any of the political parties because I'm an independent, and I vote for who I like, not who the party tells me to like...

    Anyway, it was fun. It's like all the groups in high school--such as the jocks, the band, the chess team--all got together and picked their choice of who would run for Homecoming King and Queen in November.

    I'm backing Barack Obama, because I want change and I luv his message of hope...also, he's the prettiest of all the candidates. I want my leader to look good...especially as his face will be on tv a lot.

  3. I missed the top part of the post, so I want to say this.

    I'm so sorry for your loss.

  4. CP, thank you...

    It's always hard to lose someone we love, but life goes on, and so do we, carrying their memories with us, as we hopefully share our joy and love with those we'll eventually leave behind, as the cycle of life continues...

    Oye, now I sound like ad for the Lion King ;)

  5. Eros, just carry on with that ad I'm sure you'd make a great lion king teehee.

    Any more Twisted blokes called back yet? Or they all playing bowls now?

    We may lose our loved ones in body but the soul still lives on and that keeps me going for another day, I'm not catholic either but I am spiritual in other ways.

    Hugs from England *wonders if he'd like that hug while in the shorts*

  6. Tatas, thank you...No more strange calls, and I'm glad for that.

    *Hugs back* :)

    Speaking of the Lion King, I met someone today at a rehearsal dinner who said that he plays a gazelle on the Lion King; he was back in Houston for his brother's wedding...and he had pictures to back up his claim!

  7. Awesome. We've all had an animal part in our life sometime. I was one of the three bears when i was at little school. LOL :0)

  8. I've played a dragon once

    and hula dancer, man pretending to a grandmother and a king.

  9. Tatas: Which bear were you? Mama or baby?

    CP: You talented actor you! Most of plays I was in, I was a background character :)

  10. I was baby bear I'll get the pic out and try and scan it over for you, You may need a oxygen tank as you may laugh so much you'll need it.