May 3, Houston: The big one -- the Inprint reading -- occurs at the Alley Theatre on Monday, May 3. Do not miss it or you'll be sorry. I'm not kidding -- I'm going to say the craziest, most intellectual yet hilarious stuff I can think of, and I'll be sharing the stage with the ultra sexy Oscar Casares, too.
June 24, Houston: I'm one of the peeps scheduled to read at Poison Pen, at Houston's famous Poison Girl bar. Besides me, everyone there will be ultra, *super* sexy. Come see me and drink!
June 26, Washington, DC: I'll be reading at the American Library Association conference. Come on down.
My other blog: Go read my the Houston Chronicle parenting blog (or my ChronMomBlog, as I like to call it) and make sure my kids won't resent me more than other kids resent their own parents.
Buy my new novel, Lone Star Legend. Already did? Well, buy a few more for your friends, then. :)
Saturday, November 29, 2008Things I'm Going to Do When I Finish This Novel I'm Writing
1. Exercise. Maybe even run.
2. Spend some quality time with my family.
3. Make some jewelry or paintings or something.
4. Renovate this freaking Web site.
5. Hurry up and start publicizing the last two books I sold, which are the next two books you'll see, which will be available in January and May.
6. Plan my wedding (or elopement, if it comes to that).
7. Get my World of Warcraft main character from Level 45 to Level 46. Maybe all the way to Level 47, if I work real hard.
8. Feel agitated and nervous because I'm not writing anything.
9. Start writing something new.
Labels: writing6:33 PM # (1) comments
Tuesday, November 18, 2008obligatory Thanksgiving gratefulness
The other day I was thinking about writing a "thankful for" list for this blog, and immediately got whiny and self-pitying, in my mind, over all the little things for which I'm not grateful this year. Then, right after that, I had a Thanksgiving Miracle Revelation: All my worries are first world worries. (I learned that phrase from Jackie.) That means all my problems are trite things that 98% of the people in the world wish were the only things they had to worry about. Things that the me of ten, five, or even two years ago would have been happy to trade for my worries of the moment. Things like "zomg, when am I gonna be able to fix the shower in one of the bathrooms in the house that I can still totally afford because I got a prime loan and not an adjustable rate mortgage?" And like, "I'm so sad I barely have time to write these things that people are paying me to write after I get home from the job where I'm well paid and respected for my skills!" And things like "Oh noes, I have to consult with my traffic court lawyer on this BS ticket scam that East Chickenfoot, TX is trying to run before my license comes up for renewal a year from now."
And, I mean, we have plenty to eat and plenty of air conditioning and/or heat as we need it, and more clothes and toys than we can use in a year, and our cats are fat. And we're healthy, knock on wood. So... thank God, right? Thank God for everything we have, and for the Indians feeding the pilgrims that day and giving us yet another excuse to chill out with our family and friends and eat more than usual. Life is good. Thank y'all for existing, so that your silent existence would force me to think of a list of things that would reveal to me how very, very lucky I am.
A lot of crazy stuff is going on with my day-job company, just like it is for all of yours, I'm sure. Here's hoping every one of us ends up where we need to be. A couple of our friends have been laid off recently, and we're crossing our fingers for them.
One of my friends has been sick as hell, and my fingers are crossed for her, too. Most of my friends are doing well, and I'm glad.
I'm super, super busy til December 1, polishing my second novel. After/amongst that, I'm gearing up to promote the first novel and the second kids' book. Between those, I'm hosting Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve at my house. My cousin is hosting Christmas this year, and she just told me that we might have to break down and form a Super Family Style Tamale Assembly Line, Just Like Back in the Day. I like to think that my first kids' book (see Tamale book, linked at right) was part of the inspiration for that scheme. :) The part you don't see in the kids' book is one of the cousins saying "And, while we make the tamales, we'll drink wine." But it might have been implied. Hard to say -- hard to interpret one's own work, to be objective about one's subconcious literary intent. You'll have to read the book and read between the lines. Are Ana's cousins drinking wine while they spread the masa? You will have to be the judge on that one. Then you'll have to let me know. This year I want to try to make my friend Letty's mom's "drunken tamales," which are filled with beans and cabbage. Sounds weird, but tastes freaking awesome. Believe.
Okay, no more stream of conscience blogging.
It's time to get back to work. Everybody pray for me, that I can work super hard and get everything done. I'm sending good wishes to everyone out there who has art they want/need to complete, whether they read my blog or not. Because I'm starting to believe that's one of the best things people can do to stay happy while navigating our vale of tears: make art when you feel the need. Despite time constraints. Despite the negativity of others. Despite the nagging feeling that you're supposed to be doing something else.
If I don't talk to y'all before Thanksgiving, I hope you have a good one. If you don't celebrate Thanksgiving, then I hope you have a bunch of really good days in November. 6:42 PM # (14) comments
Thursday, November 06, 2008I live in a Red State
and therefore envy those of you who don’t. I wanted, on Election Night, to be somewhere full of people. But I couldn’t think of where that place might be, in my part of town. My own little neighborhood is very lackadaisical and quiet, and no one on my street had signs of any kind in their yards. (Shoot, they barely had Halloween decorations.) But our neighboring ‘hoods were peppered with McCain/Palin signs and I couldn’t think of a nearby restaurant or bar where those people wouldn’t be standing around looking sad/mad.
My boyfriend came over to watch the news with us, but I was falling asleep on the sofa by 9:30. It’s the freaking time change, plus the sun. The sun keeps taking off faster, and it makes me fall asleep. The other night I went to bed at 7:45 PM because I thought it was 8:45 and was too tired to be ashamed. I’m not nocturnal. I’m a rabbit or a day-time lizard, even though my boyfriend (fiancé) is a bat or a marmoset or whatever stays up at night with red eyes – you know those ones in that special red room at the zoo. That’s what he is, and that’s what I’m not. So I conked out, planning to celebrate in the morning.
I woke up early in the morning and did my normal commute routine (commutine!). Everyone around me was silent, like usual. I don’t know what I was expecting, but everyone stayed quiet. Downtown, a man passed me carrying several newspapers in one arm. He was holding them in such a way that Barack Obama looked out from the front page. I saw that and smiled a little, then looked up at the man carrying the papers… and he had such a look on his face. Not happy, but kind of defensive. Like daring someone to say something against Obama, the day after Obama had won. I dropped my smile and minded my own business.
All day long, I read Twitter and Gawker talking about people celebrating. Here in Houston, it was silent. There are a lot of people at my work who voted for Obama – I know there are, because they told me they were going to – but now that he had won, everyone was silent. Only one person (a person I love but who is immune to social mood) said anything about it above a whisper. She was immediately engaged in conversation by an unhappy McCain voter, who told us unhappily and earnestly that Obama was working very hard to make abortions “easy” to get.
Day 2, this morning, I didn’t feel like going to work at all (Seasonal Affective Dis-Wanting-to-go-to-Work) but marched myself to the park-n-ride, where I was picked up by a married couple in an SUV.
I don’t like to say ugly things about the strangers who give me rides, because they’re giving me rides for free, but I have to say that the woman drove very poorly and that their SUV smelled bad. They talked amongst themselves, like married people, while I sat in the sour-smelling back seat. I had to wait for a break in their personal married-people conversation to tell them where I was going, and make sure they could drop me off there.
They talked and talked, and I had the impression that they were aware of me as their captive audience. You know – they said some cutesy things in a louder voice for my entertainment. You know what I mean? Me and my boyfriend (fiancé) do that to, sometimes, with the captives we pick up from the park-n-ride. I think it’s a natural human compulsion.
But mostly they talked quietly about all the many, many things they were planning to buy, and how stupid people were for not driving or buying SUVs, now that gas was magically cheap again. I pulled out my brand new, special-ordered Math Puzzle Book and worked on math puzzles (trigons, for those who know). During yesterday’s ride home, I completed a whole trigon (6 digits, for those who know) on the bus ride home, and I was very proud of myself afterwards. But this morning, I couldn’t make any progress at all. That’s how I am on the trigons. Either my brain is working in such a way that I can do them, or else it isn’t.
I put the book away and meditated throughout the rest of the half-hour ride, then. I told myself not to get upset about the smell of the SUV, its horrible suspension system, or the woman’s sloppy driving. Because I had chosen to get into their car, and they were doing me a service, and I should just be silently gracious. Graciously silent. Either. I tried really, really hard not to listen to the couple’s conversation, because it was none of my business, and because I’m trying not to be so judgmental, now that I’m older and more mature and etc. But I couldn’t help but hear them list all the things they were going to buy for Christmas and other occasions. The man’s very important business phone call. His suggestion to his wife that she try a personal trainer that so-and-so had sworn by. “I get it,” I thought. “You guys are rich. You’re completely awesome. Ride’s almost over, ride’s almost over….”
And then, right at the end, the woman switched the radio from Houston’s annoying Top 40 station (Roula and Ryan, for those who know and can commiserate) to a conservative talk station. And the talker said “blah blah blah Barack Obama.” And there was a pause in the couple’s conversation. And I said nothing, but I felt weird, all of a sudden, like there was tension in the air. Like maybe they wanted to lament his winning, but censored themselves because of me. And for the purposes of this story, I now have to tell you now that both of them were Caucasian.
The pause un-paused, and the woman launched into a story about making fun of some young man. She recounts that the young man retaliated by telling her, “Oh, yeah, well I heard you’re pregnant.”
She’s telling this story loud enough for me to hear it, mind you.
And she says, “I told him, ‘Right, I’m pregnant, and the baby’s due in 2015.’” Pause for audience laughter. Her husband obliges with a chuckle. I keep pretending I can’t hear her, even though I can’t avoid hearing her, because I’m polite like that. She continues: “I told him, ‘I’m having sextuplets, and one [is] Obama.’”
Her husband chuckles again. I’m puzzled. One of the sextuplets is Obama, or Obama’s? Or they’re named Obama? I’m not sure what she said, exactly.
She goes on to the final punchline: “And two are Michael Jordan's!”
Long, long pause for audience reaction. Her husband chuckled, but more faintly. I maintain my pretense that I can’t hear them, even though it’s obvious that I can and that she meant for me to hear. I don’t even know why. Was I supposed to laugh? Maybe. They wanted me to prove my solidarity by laughing at the joke, so that they could feel “safe” with me and go on to disparage the president-elect, maybe?
The thing is, her joke was so effing stupid that, even if I were a bigot, I wouldn’t have laughed at it. You know? I like to imagine that, even if I had been born in Vidor, Texas, to the Grand Daddy Dragon of the local KKK, I’d still have a decent sense of humor. Or… well, forget that. I haven’t really considered that scenario, ever. I’m just saying – her joke was racist and lame.
I thought about piping up and saying, “Oh, yeah? My husband’s black, too.” That way I would not only deflate their racism, but emasculate her husband by pretending I'd assumed he wasn’t her husband.
But I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. I was scared to. I admit it. I was in their car, and I was relying on their kindness to get me where I needed to go. I said nothing.
They stayed kind of quiet until we got to my stop. I steadily pretended to be interested in what was out the window, but it was obvious that I’d failed their test, and they knew that I knew that they knew that I knew it, and she was emanating the stink of the bully now, who has a victim cornered, and he was radiating the smallest bit of shame, because he seemed to know that her joke was lame and because there was now a specter in the air of his wife being impregnated by at least two men who were not him and not even of his own race.
(Instinct tells me that we’ve reached the climax and I should wind down now for maximum story flow, but I’ve been writing this blog for so long that I can break rules and ignore instinct and go off on a tangent here, and be even MORE candid, because I’m never going to run for office, so I just don’t care, so check this out now….)
There were so many long, long seconds between the end of her joke and the few blocks to my stop. And I’m so observant or intuitive or hypersensitive or overly imaginative that I was able to draw long threads of story out of each of those seconds. I’d already noted, upon entering their car, that while he looked and sounded like a run-of-the-mill son of a bootstrap Republican, she was lower class who’d married up. God forgive me for saying this – some of you are going to comment or email me and tell me I’m just as racist/hateful as them – but I could tell by her eyeliner that she’d grown up poorer than him (black inside the lower lid with sparkly color underneath) and I could tell by her voice that she was so, so proud of that fact. So there was that. But then, when she made the joke about her multiracial sextuplets, while he might have enjoyed her crude racism, just as he enjoyed her looking up to him as her financial savior, I could tell that the Michael Jordan reference had gone too far for her husband.
“Why Michael Jordan?” he was probably thinking. “I get the Obama part, but Michael Jordan hasn’t been in the news for years. Why didn’t she say Tiger Woods or T-Mac or Tracy Morgan? Does my wife have a secret crush on Michael Jordan? Does my wife wish Michael Jordan would get her pregnant?”
There was just starting to be that level of silent awkwardness when we got to the corner where they’d agreed to let me off.
“This is the end of the ride,” I told myself. “Now you can safely say something against them. Do it right before you get out of the car.” I thought up what I would say. I would look at her and say, “Thanks. Congratulations on your pregnancy!”
“But,” I told myself, “isn’t that kind of chickenshit, to say something right at the end like that? Isn’t that every bit as chickenshit as making racist remarks in front of a stranger while she’s trapped in your car and you’re not alone?”
I was going, with 70% certainty, to say it. But right before I got off the car, the woman turned to me and, in a voice as sweet as small-town-Texas honey, her best Southern hospitality voice, she said, “Have a good day, okay? Be safe!”
I muttered thanks and got out of the car and walked away without looking at them. I’m sure that, after I was gone, they told each other that I was rude.
I swear to God…
Some of you want to think I’m making that up, but I’m not.
Some of you think, “Well, Gwen lives in Texas, and the South is full of racists, so I’m sure that happens every day.” But it doesn’t.
Usually, I have to know racists for at least a few days before they’ll make those kind of jokes to me. And then I’ll say, “Yeah, my dad’s Mexican.” And they’ll say, “Oh, well, I didn’t mean you,” and then they’ll get quiet and hate me, but at least they’ll have learned not to assume everyone around them wants to hear racist shit.
But it’s very rare that complete strangers say those things around me. I was kind of shocked.
That makes me think that the racists in Houston are very uncomfortable and are seeking comfort from the herd, just like I was when I wanted to be in public on Election Night. No succor for anyone, then.
After I got off the racist SUV, I plugged my ipod securely into my ears, to soothe myself. After that, I got on the bus, which had riders of many ethnicities. Everyone looked uncomfortable. I wondered why but didn’t wonder hard enough to unplug my ipod. I was tired of uncomfortable people.
There were several black gentlemen sitting in the back of the very small bus. One of them was talking very loudly, throughout the short ride to the complex where most of us work. Despite my earplugs, I heard him say the words Texas, McCain, and racist. I saw the other riders, of all colors, glance at him and look even more uncomfortable. I left my ipod in, as did the woman sitting next to me. I’m not a Texas McCain racist, so he wasn’t talking to me. He was only talking loud enough that I was his captive audience. But he wasn’t driving, and I had my ipod.
I thought he was a rude and hateful person. But, at the same time, I tried to imagine him undergoing what I’d undergone in the strangers’ SUV, times 5000, for his whole life, and especially since the election. And I couldn’t imagine it.
So I said nothing.
Sometimes I wish I lived in a blue state. Usually, I wish it around election time. But in general, I do still love Houston. Because, ironically, it’s diverse. And it’s warm, and we have good food, and the people are usually friendly.
I never lie. Sometimes I exaggerate for a better story, but I never lie.
I told a friend that story, this morning – about the racist white people and then the angry black man. And I don’t think she (a liberal white woman married to a black/Mexican man) believed me. She said, “God, why does stuff like that happen to you?” I think she wanted to believe I’d somehow caused it, that it wouldn’t have happened on its own.
But I said, “Because I’m out among people. You live nearby, and you get in your car and drive straight to work. I’m out with strangers every day.”
She had to admit that it made sense. She was sad. Yeah, so was I, because that shit is sad. Hopefully it’ll stop happening soon. Some day in the future, before my children grow old and die. 7:35 AM # (23) comments