********

Janis had a voice in tune with the angels and demons. Her Pretty Little Demons must have been beyond pretty, gorgeous even, much like mine. And I’m not saying I’m gorgeous here; it’s just my demons are.

So, today’s song is “Summertime”. The mood in this song is so melancholy and yet the lyrics have a mixed tinge of humor and sadness, of sarcasm and anger, of positive and negative thougths battling between this girl from a rich dad and gorgeous mom. A girl who will someday fly. I love that thought as trite as it may seem. Will she fly as an angel in death? Or will she do great things in her life? It’s up in the air.

It’s like the essence of the song describes my childhood, my youth.

I know all about having a gorgeous mom, about melancholy and being mixed up with ambivalence, confusion and ambiguity. But my dad on the other hand lost his business in Colombia when he decided to move to the States for me. He sacrificed everything he’d worked up for until that point. I always felt so guilty about it. Ironically though, the guy who took over his photography studio after we left was shot while some hoodlums broke in to steal anything they could. Colombia was in deep political unrest at the time.

********

Well, it’s summer and summertime living is easy for us southern girls. ha! Somer time is ‘a leavin’.

Summertime for me has often been a time of remission from the “mentals” (usually, not always); the only brief remissions I recall. And this summer seems to be no different, despite the burdensome circumstances. I have been getting relatively “better” since July.

****

I also recall many melancholy summers in my childhood. I was a melancholy child even before the suicidals hit. Oh I do.  Child melancholy. Adolescent melancholy. Adult melancholy. It just gets worse. It’s just another bucket filling in the well.

Oh summertime though. Weren’t childhood summers the best? If I recall clearly, even my childhood melancholy summers where better than my remission adolescent and adult summers.

Summertime is  ‘a here y’all. Don’t you cry girl. Don’t you cry. Remember you’re the “mean challenger,” the “brave girl” who never cries.

Yet I’m crying now.

Oh I have so many stories about what this song means to me. So here’s just one of the many….

********

Once Upon a Summertime

I became extremely close to a dirty-blond haired girl way back in 2003-2004. She had big eyes like mine, only hers were green–mine are brown. And she had gorgeous big, pursed lips. It got to a point where I had an intense crush on her. I’m still not sure why.

Back then, I was involved in this organization called the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls and used to joke that they were a cult of lesbians–I wish they were because at least then I wouldn’t have to wear white dresses and do stupid rituals for Jesus. No offense to Jesus. I’m sure he was a cool dude. I’d have kicked it with him, but I doubt he enjoys all that adoration.

This organization was VERY religious and very strict. I caught hell for wearing a brow and nose ring. Anyway, that’s were I met this wonderful girl. The day I met her, we laughed at the rituals and the white dresses.

Don’t get scared; they didn’t harm me. Well, they did once when we went to Corpus Cristi but that’s another post altogether. This Rainbow for Girls thing was more like a cult of Mason’s Christian daughters who claimed to do charity work (the reason I’d joined was because I wanted to do charity work), but instead of doing charity, they only bickered. Anyway, me and this girl (I’ll call her Emma) connected because we both felt out-of-place there. We were both outsiders.

Emma was a wild one, a  free-thinker like me. We had one of those intense connections that immediately sparked! And one summer, we had a road trip with the other Rainbow Girls, the not-so-free-thinker-ones. In the car, Emma and I jammed to Joplin. Me and her, her and me. We laughed a lot that girl Emma and I.

This girl, Emma, knew ALL ABOUT Janis Joplin. I mean, if you know anything about Janis Joplin, you know that she was from Texas. You’d know she was born in January 19, 1943 and began writing plays in the first grade (oh how I’ve always had a thing for most Aquarians I’ve met). You’d also know that she went to Lamar State College for a stretch between gigs before becoming famous. And since you’d know she grew up in Texas and that Lamar State College is where she went for a while; you’d know Lamar State College is also in Port Arthur, Texas, not too far from Houston where I grew up.

Yep, you’d know, you’d know how inadequate she must’a felt there. You’d know that in high school, she’d earned the name “pig” for being pudgy and “nigger lover” for her “tolerance” and love of blacks and her hate of racism–which she witnessed a lot of in Port Arthur and at Lamar, I’m sure. You’d know that that’s why she often left to live with her aunt in Venice Beach, California.

Surely, you’d know this, but even so, you wouldn’t know all the things this girl Emma knew. Emma and I felt her PAIN. This girl was a DEDICATED Joplin fan–must be still. I became a hardcore dedicated fan thanks to Emma.

A year after that summer, in the spring of 2004, I went on a road trip to the northwestern plains of Texas with Emma. Just us two. We went to visit her then-fiancé in prison. She and I had a thing for bad boys, only she’d slept with many and I hadn’t… yet. She was only a year older than me but had been engaged more than once. I hadn’t even had sex or a boyfriend.

I remember getting so upset when I was in that line of booths where you talk to the prisoners through a connected phone behind the windows. I got upset because the people next to us was a family of five–a mom and her three little kids. The dad was a prison inmate. The oldest child was about ten. They were all visiting their daddy, and to me it was so sad. I just sat and watched the man talk to his kids behind the glass while Emma talked to her fiance. And I wondered if it were better for those kids to visit that man, their father, or not. I was so depressed then. I remember wheeling myself to the restroom past these gates where men in solitary confinement stayed. And I just sat on the stall and cried and cried. When I got back, I sat there just looking at them but trying not to look too hard. I always felt things like that, intensely.

Springs have never been good to me, but sumertime is a little different.

****

On our way back from the prison–oh those lovely Texas prisons and there are loads of them– we stopped at this old ma-and-pa shop looking for a place to eat spaghetti. Emma got herself a Southern Comfort plaque, and we planned to see if we could sneak our way into buying some Southern Comfort whisky back in Houston.

Janis had been a “troubled girl” like Janis and I, so she drank a lot of that Southern Comfort whiskey (we ended up not getting the whisky after all).

She was my “date” at my senior prom. She wore a tucks with high heels and I wore a beautiful black and green dress. I didn’t enjoy myself. I only cried after it was over.Then Emma told me that she was planning on going to Lamar State College. She never did. She went somewhere else. She also told me she had BP (bipolar disorder), but back then I hadn’t had my monumental mental breakdown, so I hadn’t been diagnosed or sent to any psychiatric clinic. I was still struggling in silence. So I felt awkward telling her about how much I empathized. I did tell her I empathized but not REALLY EMPATHIZED like I did on the inside. I guess I paid no mind because I was trying to put “mind over matter” like a good Christian Scientist would. I still suspected BP or something similar in myself.

****

What do you think happened between me and dear Emma?

Yep.

Very borderline is what happened.

Our intense friendship broke–just as intense of a rupture as its union. We dissipated from each other as quickly as we had bonded. I see our little summer escapades as a chemical reaction between atoms, forming new molecules, new bonds–that became our friendship. Then, the borderline in me and the bipolar in her was the catalyst.

Then again, I could over analyze it like I tend to. Or oversimplify it.  Of course, life is just like that. Some people drift in and out of our lives. But for me, it’s everyone I’ve been close to. Maybe that’s just how life is for some of us.

In 2006, Emma and I rekindled our friendship online. And for a brief moment, all was well between us again. Then one day, she let me down. She asked me out to a Greek festival and the day of the festival she didn’t return my calls. I instantly went from loving her to hating her guts! I wanted to tear at my skin and pull all of my hair out.

“How could she do this to me?” I thought. “Why wouldn’t she at least call back and say she was sorry, that she wasn’t going, or that she couldn’t pick me up because something held her up?” When I emailed her about it, she didn’t reply. “What did I do? She obviously hates me. No one will ever like me.”

I insulted her in another email and cut her off completely though I missed her terribly. Now was that just life or some of the “borderline” in me?

Soon summertime will become “autumn time” in this part of the world. Molecules come together; molecules break apart. Warmth becomes cool.

****

Enjoy!

addendum: Monkey Man L. had a vinyl record of hers I really wanted. mmmhmmm. I would have wanted it as a memento. I think his sis too it. Well, she deserved it.

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Sinterklaas

December 25, 2011

Santa'sDead

Santa’sDead (c) 2011 Melancholically Manic Mouse

There’s always that one elementary school teacher you hear about somewhere, the one that murders her students and their wild but fragile imaginations by telling them Santa is a hoax; that his slaved sweatshop elves and reindeer are also a hoax, AND, that they should go home and shame their parents. I read about such story not too long ago. I can’t blame her. Sometimes the scrooge and Grinch in us comes out.

I’m reminded about the time I tried to tell my third-grade classmates about Santa’s non-existence. It didn’t go so well, obviously.

********

Firstly, I’m Colombian. And Colombians–at least when I was a kid in the late eighties–don’t celebrate Christmas with Santa Clause. People do put him on Christmas trees, little figurines are sold for decoration, you can hear his bells in shopping plazas, but he’s treated more as an uninvited guest, the bawdy drunken relative–distant relative–you let into the party obligatorily. Santa is second in show, maybe third after Virgin Mary, or fourth after the endless row of saints.

****

In Colombia, it’s all about Baby Jesus, the true star of the show! White Baby Jesus abounds.

There are baby Jesus songs, baby Jesus dolls, and baby Jesus candy. Baby Jesus shoes, baby Jesus earrings, baby Jesus backpacks, cakes and ice cream cones. Man, that’s one of the commandments broken all over the place. You don’t know a nativity set until you’ve seen a homemade one that includes the entire village and spans the length of an entire living room.

And most importantly, Baby Jesus brings you your presents, because, like in most of Latin America, the Catholic population is the status-quo. I imagine that poverty stricken kids, kids who didn’t get much if anything at all risked being bitter towards Baby Jesus, but I wonder if that’s any better than being bitter towards a morbidly obese, bearded white man from the cold isle of oblivion.

In my family’s case though, we had been told, and I quote my mom, “Baby Jesus helps us with the money to get you the presents, mi amor. We’re the ones who buy them, but Baby Jesus helps us.”

I didn’t get the metaphor then and envisioned the ghost of baby Jesus spiriting down from the heavens all Sistine Chapel like and laying down some extra cash on my parent’s palms before shooting back up to the clouds like superman. In sum, we had a very different take on Christmas than here in the U.S.. We got to fall asleep hugging our presents after sniffing around for them behind couches and under beds  like hound dogs in a scavenger hunt that started on midnight of Christmas Eve. I think the scavenger hunt bit was one of my dad’s ideas, not a Colombian tradition. I may be wrong though.

****

In any case, it’s no surprise that when I was hauled to the U.S. just in time to start pre-school, I laughed at the notion. I was momentarily culture shocked. My brain tickled and I rolled high off newness for a couple of years. And when Christmas time came, I quietly giggled and scoffed.StabSanta drawing

********

One day I finally decided to tell my comrades the truth. Those dumb asses had to know! I was a self-righteous crusader, sword in hand, ready to stab and deflate Santa’s imaginary bloated belly!

StabSanta2 drawingStabSanta3 drawing

****

That day came unexpectedly. As silent reading time wrapped up, the teacher prompted us to gather in a circle for a little talk about a story the class was going to read together. It was about Santa. When she began asking us what we thought of Santa and if we’d asked him for anything special, I felt the urge rise. I couldn’t resist it. I hoisted myself far back up against my little wheelchair and straightened up my diminutive shoulders.

“BUT STANTA ISN’T REEEAL. HE’S MADE UP,” I blurted midway through one of the other kid’s answers.  With my head held high, I scanned my peers for reassurance and added, “Stanta’s stupid fat red cheeks ain’t real either! They’re all made up dumb ass baby stories!”

Stillness settled in the room like fog.

“Big… ass… babies,” I whispered to myself no longer triumphant.

The overwhelming silence lasted forever and a day. I wished I hadn’t said anything. But no! They had to know!

I sat there confused and ashamed.

A few classmates started to argue with me, telling me to “prove it”. “Prove Santa isn’t real!” Others desperately asked the teacher if what I was saying was true, some were panicking while some were on the verge of crying. Their little brains began questioning childish but profound questions about the realness of things, anything and everything. I had burst their bubble, swallowed the innocence they had along with my own. A few however, agreed. Those brave few claimed they’d known all along. Mostly though, it was just the foreign ones like me–Vietnamese and a mixture of other browns. These few who knew took the torch of indignation from me and fueled it further. Then there were the clever ones who had figured it out.

****

Like a true king, I relinquished all in my defeat, backing down from a war I had started but wasn’t ready for.

At that point the teacher hushed the class with “yes’s” and “but’s” and “if’s” and I asked to go to the restroom. I was scared.  I wanted out.  God, what did I do?! Diosito lindo, am I gonna get a demerit! I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit.

The teacher let me go but gave me the squinty eyes and an impish smirk. Aaah!  I AM gonna get a demerit!

I rolled out as quickly as possible and was surprised to find my aid already waiting outside the classroom entrance. How’d did she know? She had overheard the commotion through the makeshift walls. I suspected she was always there lurking behind the walls of the classrooms which were arranged in office cubicle manner.

On our way out to the main hall, my aid began relaying the story of Sinterklaas. She assured me that Santa was once a real person who lived long ago in Sweden or Germany or Greece or some magical place of antiquities. And during Christmas, he would give coins and gifts to poor kids in his parish. He was rich and kind so his story lived on. She went on and on trying to inculcate his essence into my being. Looking back I realize that, in part, she was just trying to make me assimilate–to have me acknowledge that the bogus tradition had true meaning, meaning that was lost but that I should embrace nonetheless.

Turns out she was mixing up the stories. Sinterklaas derived from Saint Nicholas who we all know as the bishop/saint but who’s life and existence is somewhat sketchy like baby Jesus. Santa Clause then is just the Americanized mutation of that; his iconographic figure was actually popularized by the famous caricaturist Thomas Nast.

****

Imagine if the US had adopted the same Sinterklaas of southern and western Europe. Instead of green elves [read midgets in green suites], it would’ve been midgets in blackface (I’m a midget who’s never worn blackface, so it’s ok for me to say this). And on December sixth instead, these subservient, blackfaced midgets would trumpet their way into your living room to a ragtime tune while heralding presents and goodness and cheer. I think it would’ve gone superbly well with the children’s blackfaced cartoon characters of the 1920s and 1940s. Christians were always screwing with pagan holidays anyway, so I figure there’s no harm in making history even more screwed-up than it already is. It’d be nice.

Once we were inside the restroom stall, my aid plucked me from my wheelchair and planted me on the toilet seat while going on about Sinterklaas. I was fascinated but by then I really did have to go.  I grew impatient. She’d noticed, closed the stall and stood just outside of it to continue her rant.

Please, pleeease *fart* please, *fart* *fart* just let me poop, I silently pleaded.

But I didn’t get to poop in peace. Over her droning voice, the thoughts of demerits, angry classmates and very angry Sinterklaases circling above me and churning my already messy stomach.

It wasn’t until a year or two later that I began to realize how I knew too much for my own good. I began to feel that “otherness” I would battle with for years.

**********

****

********

NOTE: Yes, the little girl who resembles me doesn’t have legs in the first part. And all of the kids are floating. I got lazy and tired towards the end. It’s also my first attempt at doodling in Illustrator! I’m fairly new with the program and have mainly used it to do more technical stuff like layouts for invitation and business cards. Hope yous out there are enjoying Christmas holiday (or whatever you celebrate) more than I am.

Edit: I just remembered what we called Santa in Spanish! Can’t believe I couldn’t think of it right away. It’s El Papá Noel! And yes, Papá Noel is a lot more hip and popular with the Latin America kids these days than in my time.

I was interviewed this morning by a correspondent of EFE international news.

It was awkward. Very awkward on my part at least, and as a result, my anxiety meter has just shot up to the ninth degree. My hands are trembling Michael J. Fox style. And my heart hurts when it palpitates.

I don’t like talking about myself. [ha!] Ok, I don’t like talking about myself under certain circumstances, like being in front of a microphone and a glaring lens.

Really though, I don’t. I don’t like to evoke sympathy. I’ve had to swallow enough of that in my childhood to stuff a herd of overgrown factory cows. No more. Sympathy can suck it. I don’t think I could say that any more concisely than the Dude: “I don’t need your fuckin’ sympathy, man, I need my fucking johnson!”

I do.

I have had many struggles–incapacitating physical and mental struggles–maybe even more than the average bear (and mouse). But you’ve had struggles too. I’m sure of that. That’s partly why I’m here, to share and read others’ struggles. And maybe we can mix our struggles into one giant ball of Play Doh, roll it down a grassy hill and then roll ourselves down that hill, mash it and laugh about it with a childlike glimmer in our eyes. And in the long run, isn’t all of humanity wedged in the same chaotic ball of energy, a floating ball of infinite energy swimming in an endless void? That in itself is a struggle.

So this reporter fella, J, sends me an email last Tuesday. (I think it was last Tuesday, I’m forgetting what days we’re on. Woke up from a nap earlier, was in a panic, thinking it was Monday already and that I’d missed my flight, which won’t be until Wednesday. This damn seasonal change wrecks havoc on my already fucked biorhythms)

Anyway, I get this email from correspondent J:

SOLICTUD PARA ENTREVISTA

Hola, estoy buscando a Paula –—-. Soy corresponsal con la Agencia de Noticias EFE y me han solicitado un reportaje sobre su caso. La duda que tengo es que no sé si es usted la misma Paula que salió en los medios hace pocas semanas.

In sum, the email is asking 1. If i’m the same Paula from that November Huffington Post article (which he provided a link to), and 2. If he could interview me about “my case”.

I’m in the Huffingon Post? How did this happen? I clicked the link, a terrible mistake. And I read it. An even worse mistake.

The article was from when I was talking to a reporter in a loud convention center in Dallas, TX. It was for a United We Dream event in regards to the DREAM Act. During a lunch break, she sat me down even though I was already sitting, and we talked over coffee. We had a great conversation. But I guess I was so sleep deprived that weekend that I just thought we were chatting it up and ignored the fact that she was scribbling in a little notepad.

The article. It was uh, it was… ok. I don’t believe any article/report can give accurate truth to a situation and it can’t give more than a superficial validation to the people in it. There’s no such thing as unbiased reporting. And her writing made me appear slightly mentally challenged, which I kinda am. But no one has to know right?

Here’s how the article ends:

“If I had legal papers, I would get help for my disability,” said Paula —–. “There needs to be a change in the ignorance over the situation of thousands of undocumented students, people should know the truth about this movement.”

I laughed a little. I mocked myself.

*in mocking robotic voice* “If I had legal papers…” “Oh.. if i had legal papers I be set. Disability.”

What kind of diction and syntax is that? I’ll tell you what kind. It’s the robotic kind because when intense anxiety hits, you become many things you’re usually not. I become a robot with sparking wires flying everywhere. Add coffee to that.

Another thing, it makes me seem demanding. But you know what, fuck it, maybe I should be demanding!

And then, there “needs to be a change in the ignorance over the situation”. I don’t speak like that. Do I? I remember saying something more profound or less stupid.

I know I’m being overly critical of myself. And I know the written and spoken language are not the same. That’s exactly why I don’t like interviews. I writeth better than I speaketh. Don’t know if I make much sense in either form though.

What was worse and more anxiety inducing was the comments/discussion section that followed the article. They were vicious! Re-fuckin-lentless. Very, very hateful stuff man. At least they didn’t have terrible grammar and all caps letters like most of their kind usually do.

So for my own psychological well being, I limited myself to reading three… ok four, which go as follows:

Comment #1:

“Weird twilight zone”? Because people want our laws enforced? What Bizzaro world do you live in? Look around, no country allows themselves to be overrun by illegal aliens.

Yes, this world of mankind is bizzaro kinda like that show. And I did run over and overrun a mean girl in middle school with my wheelchair while I turned alien green, but then again, I’d say it was more of a Hulk green. Either way, green was against school policy which was heavily enforced.

Comment #2:

There are 6 billion 700 million non US citizens on the planet, do you believe they all should be given a right to come to America and live? I say hell no! My wife is from Korea, she is now a US citizen, never has anyone from her family asked to have us sponsor any of them, we never even talked about it. The dream act is just another backdoor amnesty like the 14th amendment, which will some day be closed.

I just really feel for this fella’s wife. They “never talk about it,” which means it’s very likely they don’t ever talk about other family related issues. And the 14th Amendment gave former slaves the right to be seen as a whole person by the law (the law which did nothing to change how they were treated anyway) instead of three fifths of a person. Is he suggesting the U.S. revert to the Civil War era? And I wonder who the good sir thinks is worthy of being allowed to stay, to be allowed to be seen as five fifths of a person. Anchor baby this. *points below*

Comment #3:

“I’m sure most other 4 year olds are totally capable of going through the legal immigration process”

Illegal aliens have a good use for their children, as pawns.

I do admit, I’m a pawn. But I’m not much use to my parents. In fact, I feel like a burden right now. I guess they use my lovin’. I will stick with that for now. And I was indeed a four year old when I came here. However, I could not file paperwork then due to poor penmanship, and even if I could there was and and is no law in place to allow me to do so. My dad did apply, but all was in vain. And because I’m a stealthy pawn, I have been trying to get to that sweet queen for twenty-one of my sweet twenty-six years of pawn living.

Comment #4:

Education = The Immigrant Dream??? Perhaps, but only immigrants from India and Senegal and Korea and China. The notion that Latinos, as a people place, an emphasis on academic achievement is laughable.

Laughable? This guy was right about that. But what’s up with the multiple question marks? One will suffice man. I guess I’m also a failure in the education system because I’m not Indian, Senegalese or Korean like commentator #2’s wife. And my failure in education is why I’m currently unemployed, having graduated cum laud this past May–a B.A. in Media Production, two minors in English and art and another useless degree in sound engineering. The B.A. only took me seven years to arrive at. And I believe my failing pawny ass can also speak English.

This last dude’s comment went on and on about how Latinos have the highest dropout rate, how his tax dollars a being wasted on those worthless illegal dropouts (they’re probably Mexican so they must be illegals) and how he doesn’t get why people dare call him racist when he speaks this undeniable truth. I wonder if he’s ever thought about why these kids drop-out. Why I nearly dropped out.

At that point, I closed the browser window and backed away from the computer like if it were a set of explosives. I was the one at risk of exploding. So I took a breather. Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Remember your mindfulness skills.  People will have their opinions, and that’s ok. Not everyone will is willing to learn with an open mind and heart. Not everyone will get it, ever. And not all are spiteful and idiotic assholes.

Surprisingly, I was calm. But it was a numb calmness. Those calms are worrisome.

And… then today came along resurrecting the frustrations of the week, the anxiety, the twitching body, the sudden mental spasms, heated blood and electric current running through that blood.

Somehow I ended up saying yes to the interview request, and after a week of avoidance and cancelled appointments with reporter J, I found myself in my dad’s home office (I live with my parents), sitting in front of a mic and camera sharing my story. I thought this was going to be a written report like the first one. I nearly backed out when I found out it wasn’t. But the guy came all the way down here, so I felt obliged.

That’s how I put myself in the limelight again, naked, exposed. Exposure is good therapy for anxiety though, no? That’s what my therapist keeps insisting.

I fidgeted, my legs kicked, my hands spun a web, my heart raced almost as fast as my thoughts. So, it’s not even anonymous? They’re not gonna blur my face or cover it with a black square. They’re gonna give my real name? I’m not gonna get an autotuned voice!

I feel like such an exhibitionist now. But I make myself believe it’s for a good cause. It’s for awareness. It’s to be heard. My answers, however, were no better than the aforementioned Huffington Post bit.

“Are you ok?” reporter J said midway into the interview.

“Yes [lie]. I’m just tired. I haven’t slept much these past couple of days. The dogs woke me up the night before last.”

A few funny things kept happening though, and it lightened my mood a bit. My dad burst in from his morning jog carrying one of our two white Pomeranians on his shoulder; the other trotted behind. My dad is a dark, pot bellied, short man in his late 60’s. His round nose, bandana towel thingy hanging over his bald comb-over and the dog he hung on his back like a mink cloak was enough to distract me from the torture. I chuckled.

Then, after I had gained composure and was answering another set of the questions, the sound of peeing and a toilet flushing cut right through my voice. It was my groggy brother who’d just gotten out of bed down the hall.

Reporter J. stopped the camera and said, “We’re gonna have to do that part again.”

_______________________________________________

NOTE: I have a little sketch of me being filmed after the interview and my brother peering out his bedroom door. Maybe I’ll scan it and post tomorrow. Also, if you’re reading this and got this far, you’re awesome. Thanks for reading such a long, acidic rant and withstanding my sarcasm! Or you must be bored. I think I need to relax. I’ma go make myself a hot chocolate, watch The Walking Dead and cry myself to sleep because I can’t wait for the zombie apocalypse.