Wednesday, February 23, 2005

To all of you who wrote concerned about my pain, thank you. I have made an appointment with the dentist to see what could be causing it. Most likely, the filling needs to be shaped a tad, or I have TMJ that was aggravated due to all the work inside. This was a big, deep cavity that required a lot of work. Thankfully, my dentist is a woman with little hands. I can't imagine what I would feel like if my jaw had been stretched any further by big meaty man hands.

On Monday, I went ice skating with my mom and 7-year-old nephew Alec. It had been years since I had ice skated, especially having lived in Los Angeles for so long where the sport isn't as popular as it is on the east coast. Usually, a decent sized east coast city will have an ice skating rink, and therefore, be a host to "open skate" at least once a day when it's not the scene of parents coming to blows over their kid's hockey games. Open skate means that anyone with a few bucks can rent skates, get on the ice, and after that it's up to the war between your balance and gravity. And that's where the hilarity begins. Imagine going to a big party with a hundred people who can't hold their liquor but are lovable drunks, and you have open skate at any ice rink. People are falling left and right, kids mostly. Adults are wobbling along, precariously on the verge of a wipeout or clinging to the wall to keep from falling. Everyone is laughing because yes, it is that funny.

And, like at a lot of parties, it's usually the little guy who can hold their booze the best. It's the same at open skate, where four or five little speed demons pass you like you're driving a horse and carriage at the Indianapolis 500. In this case, it was four or five orthodox Jewish kids that I dubbed the speeding yarmulkes. Half my height, dressed in dress shirts, slacks, and skull caps, they left us all in their kosher wake. About every thirty seconds, the speeding yarmulkes would pass me on all sides in a blur of black velvet.

As the time went by, I got my stride, and even skated backward a little bit. I picked my nephew up from the ice several times and skated alongside him as one of the rink guards gave him some pointers. It was precious actually, seeing this man tell Alec to keep his knees bent and instructing him on the finer points of staying upright on ice skates. Also precious was seeing the parents out on the ice with their kids, encouraging them along. By the end of the day, I knew most of the kid's names, because I constantly heard, "Good Daniel! You're doing great Sam! That"s it, Elspeth!" And I'm sure everyone knew Alec's name, because I was saying, "Great job Alec! You're doing great Alec! Whoops Alec! That's okay, Alec! I bet your bum is getting sore, Alec!"

There was one orthodox man dressed in a business suit and tie, as if he'd just stepped out of the office and put on his skates. He was having a great time with his kids, helping them along though he was struggling himself, always smiling and laughing. It was great to watch. Again, that word comes up.


I also picked my share of kids up from the ice when they'd wipe out in front of me. Sam, of "You're doing great Sam!" fame, tottered toward me and then crumpled to the ice into a ball of fleece. I helped him up and got him back on his feet. He was maybe five or six years old and looked up at me with gigantic blue eyes under a mop of sandy hair and said, "Thank you very much."

I had to fight the temptation to kidnap Sam.

The kids are just so damn cute, little piles of rumpled colorful clothing, smiles, mittens, and ear warmers, fallen after trying their damnednest. And what's touching is how willing they were to accept my hand even though I was a stranger. I think that's what I really liked the best about this experience, was the human touch and gentleness of it all. Everyone was in it together, having fun, working as one cohesive team in hope to keep our asses from kissing the ice.

It was Alec's second time ice skating and he did really well. I couldn't help laughing at him in his little ice skates and fierce determination to stay upright, and until his 40th time, his good attitude about falling. Then, his pride was getting a little hurt since Auntie Anne hadn't fallen yet. I let him in on a secret that girls were more natural balancers than boys because of the way we are built. That offered some consolation.


We went again today at a different rink, the downtown outdoor rink, and had it all to ourselves. It was a work day and this rink was huge. The afternoon light gleamed a silver white from the ice as my nephew and I made our way around. My mom sat it out this time, content to watch us try to fill the enormous space. This was more of a struggle for me as the ice was different and seemed more slippery.

However, much to the chagrin of my nephew and my own disbelief, I still didn't fall.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

My mom and I saw Hotel Rwanda the other day. Interestingly enough, there was a class going to see the movie at the same time that we were. I thought since we were seeing a Monday matinee that no one would be in the theater. Instead, the theater was pretty full. Good to see that students were being encouraged to see this film.

About a year and a half ago, when I worked at Barnes and Noble, a nursing student came through the line. At first I thought I detected a hostile vibe, but there was something different about it. She came to my register, and we spoke minimally as I went through the process of ringing her up. She was black and wore intricate corn rows, and had what sounded like a French accent. I broke the icy silence between us asked her where she was from.

"Rwanda," she told me, and I reacted with, "Oh, my goodness." She looked at me curiously, then said, "yes." I then asked her if she was there when all was going on between the Hutus and the Tutsis. She was surprised that I knew even that much and immediately warmed to me. Since it was slow and no one was in line, we spoke a bit and she told me that she was Tutsi, and had been able to escape, but lost over thirty family members, including a brother. She told me how neighbors they'd known their entire lives betrayed her family in the cruelest of ways. One, was that they led them out into fields under the guise of a safe hiding place, only to lead them to an ambush where they were hacked to death with machetes. When she told me of that, my arms prickled. We then spoke of the senselessness of it, and I told her how I was frustrated as an American watching it and that our country did nothing to stop it.

So little of it made the news when it was happening, but I remember seeing news footage of a bunch of men hacking women with machetes. I didn't understand how someone could do that, and it was an image that still haunts me to this day. Every now and then, while in the shower, or driving, or enjoying a Starbucks in the safety of America, that image of those women being hacked to death will float to mind, and I think of how terrified they must have been. I told the woman that, and when watching it, how helpless I felt. As I looked at her, fully alive and pursuing a career, with all her human affects with her, a purse, wallet, jewelry, keys, jacket, and now a nursing book in a bag emblazoned with the Barnes and Noble logo, I thought of how easily it could have been her, this vital, smart, alive, human being who was striving to fill an alive and working brain with more knowledge. And how that could have all been erased by a machete wielding maniac.

I told her of another image I saw and knowing the story behind it. It was taken by a photographer who was there when the Red Cross was ordered to evacuate and leave behind the people that they were sheltering. There was also video of the evacuation of the safehouse, as the people pleaded with them not to go as they would be slaughtered without their protection. The workers were torn and heartbroken but had no choice but to follow orders. As they packed into the trucks, in the distance, you could hear the war cries of the Hutus who were watching and waiting until it was clear to move in on the group. The photographer took the picture of the pleading townspeople. In that still image, the terror in those people's eyes is so apparent. Again, through the years that image has haunted me, because everyone in that photograph was murdered soon after it was taken.

The woman and I spoke more about humanity, and individuals, and how every one of those people had a name. A name that made them an individual, not a group. She told me she was writing a book, but how hard it has been. I told her that I was no one to give advice on the matter, but to please write through her pain, and be a voice for those who were silenced. At the time, so little was said about Rwanda. And, so little is still said of the genocide that took place. Ten years later, Hotel Rwanda brings it to the masses. But ask anyone if they knew much about it before this film came out. Ask them what news footage they remember seeing. Probably, not much.

In 1994, calling the killings in Rwanda genocide would have legally forced the UN and other nations into action, so political bureaucrats thousands of miles from the sharp blades of machetes danced around the term as if it were a mere legal loophole. I get mad even typing this, and I remember getting mad at the time it was going on.

It was genocide, plain and simple. 800,000 people murdered in 100 days. 8,000 people a day. Radio broadcasts calling for Hutus to kill the Tutsi "cockroaches." Genocide.

There is an excellent documentary on the Rwanda genocide, called "Ghosts of Rwanda." Though it is hard hitting and brutal to watch, I highly recommend it. For you NetFlix subscribers, I believe that it's available to rent.

If anything, go see Hotel Rwanda.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I got this hilarious email from my friend regarding my open letter of admission to Colin Farrell. Name omitted to protect the guilty.

How foolish were you to deny the magnificence of an Irish male. How you should've already known their allure though, having an Irish male as your best friend who, indeed, has challenged other males in your honor in some pub or two after a couple of shots of sweet Irish whiskey, and who has shared many splendid evenings with you in perfect comedic hysterics, and who has always treated you with gentlemanly respect ( other than the time that I grabbed your ass and was as shocked as you were that I did...but such a firm, ripe ass it was... as hard as an apple actually ).

Long live the fantastic Irish male.

It's nice to have friends who are so understanding.