Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reed is the word

Since May, fees for the CSU system have raised 32%! Well, I'm fucked. Oh wait, how selfish of me: WE'RE ALL FUCKED!

Last week's protest outside California State University Chancellor Charles Reed's office was a clear message of how all students agree about this fucked of a situation. Though I wasn't allowed to use such beautiful language for the piece I wrote for the Daily 49er, every single student I spoke to shared the same feeling. With more swearing than me of course.

Starting next fall, I'm going to have to fork over an extra $672 if I want to enjoy full-time rights. I've applied for two scholarships and I've yet to begin saving the $100 I promised myself I'd hold on to from every summer paycheck.

Peter Kreysa, California Faculty Association treasurer for the CSULB chapter, told me that this is a sign that the Legislature has lost sight of the 1961 CSU Master Plan and its promise to create educated leaders for the job market. It's all about the dough now. The dough that this state ows and the toll it's taking on us, the "leaders of tomorrow."

Worst of all is that "as of July 6, 2009, CSU campuses are no longer accepting applications for the 2010 winter and spring terms." We're in, but what about our little primos and primas that are currently in high school? Now they're really fucked!

Chancellor Reed wants to believe that all college students go through the same experiences (his spokesperson told me that students whose parents make over $75,000 a year won't feel the fee hikes too much). I've got plenty of friends whose parents barely make a little bit over the minimum wage and soley depend of financial aid. Did I mentioned AB 540 students who don't qualify for governmental financial aid and must pay out of their own pocket?

For students like myself who must worry about helping out at home and stick to a job they despise, it could be too easy to fall off the wagon and quit. Too easy. These thoughts have navigated my mind lately and it's hard to shake them off.

But I also know that my compulsive behavior to finish what I start won't let me quit this whole college thing. As God and this CSULB Apple computer is my witness, I shall graduate next Spring.

Photo by Claudia Ramirez

Monday, July 20, 2009

Inspired by Richard Wright's "Black Boy"

The heat surrounding the Chipotle employees and customers is enough to bring the worst in all of us. That damn AC we've been hooked on isn't working properly so we only have our hands to fan ourselves.

I drag myself to clean all of the tables in between ringing customers up. That damn heat getting the best of me. I've been sick all week and this is the last place where I want to be.

"What are you guys laughing at?" I aske my superior and another co-worker when they mysteriously stop giggling upon my arrival from cleaning tables.

"At your 4-hour career as a cashier today," my superior says.

I toss the rag under the register and lean against the brand new metal-top table. For some reason that I can only blame on the heat, I flip out.

"Well at least I'm not making a career out of Chipotle," I reply.

I feel bad. Their suspicions that I think I am better than they are because I'm attending a university suddenly become a reality.

"Don't forget to clean the bathrooms before you clock out," is the only reply I get.

I want to apologize to them. To tell them that they too can manage to get a college education while working there. But I stay quiet and don't say a word. My face burning with shame.

These co-workers of mine have been working there around the same time I have and they've already moved on to managerial positions. I, on the other hand, have passed up the offers to become a manager for fear of getting stuck there.

I constantly think about it, but I never mention it out loud for fear of sounding like an asshole. Though I think it's too late now.

If I'm reading a book or a newspaper, they say I'm just showing off. That I ought to think about my reality and get that promotion before it's too late. What's the point, they say, you're not even going to be able to use your college degree once you graduate.

They're probably right. But at least I can say I try. I'm booking Ceci Bastida for Gustavo's show tomorrow for God's sake. I'm a show-off prick for being proud of my humble success?

I swallow my pride and knock at the women's bathroom. I spray degreaser all over the sinks and clean until I can see my reflection on the metal sinks. I look at myself in the mirror. I look exhausted. Sweat dripping from my pimply forehead.

I clock out and walk out under the damn heat. Hoping that everything will be just fine.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Immigration and drag queens

"You mean you didn't reserve a table?" the man at the bottom of the flight of stairs asked us with a hint of disgust.

"When I paid at the door they told me the show started at 9:45 p.m. and did not mention anything about a reservation," I said as I looked around Ripples, the popular Long Beach gay joint.

The man told us to hold on a few minutes until he got word that there was extra seating. I laughed because the place was no were near full. But we waited.

"Go ahead," the man signaled while opening the velvet rope strapped across the entrance of the flight of stairs.

We sat next Cindy and Kathy, a couple of nice lesbians who were probably in their late 30s or early 40s. In conversation with Kathy, I found out that she was a German immigrant who had recently received her green card.

"I'm so happy that I finally count in this country," she said in between sips of Pacifico's and bites of stale pretzels. "But getting it took so damn long."

Kathy worked as a waitress for nearly 12 years. While working as a waitress, she paid her way through law school and eventually received her green card last year. Her girlfriend lives in Seattle and their long distance relationship is taking a toll on her.

We shifted from the sad topic of relationship and started talking about how fucked up the current immigration system is.

"They make it so fucking hard for you to try and become legal," she said.

Aside from being gay, Kathy was an undocumented immigrant. Despite the fact that she had been with her girlfriend for nearly five years, there was no way that they could get married and fix her immigration status. Like many straights couples have done for years.

I told her about the many AB 540 students who are graduating every year from U. S. colleges. I told her how they cannot use their college degree due to their immigration status.

The lights went off and a Cher-look-a-like welcomed everyone. Kathy and I looked at each other and cheered. We indeed felt welcomed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Drawing ispired by Ceci Bastida

So last Wednesday I met the great Ceci Bastida. Yes, the same Ceci that sang on Tijuana No's "Pobre de ti." I couldn't have been more star-strucked and I don't remember what I said. I think I kissed her hand.

Last week I also found a bad picture of me. I think I was around 4 or 5 years old. Yes, I had the bowcut and the ADIDAS shorts with the tube socks. Anyhow, I was inspired to do this little doodle. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I could have, but didn't.

"A news reporter's duty can sometimes be difficult. It is not easy to approach someone in such distress to seek answers to the questions that need asking. "
-Walter Cronkite from his book A Reporter's Life

"Can you just do me that favor, man?" the man in the red Quicksilver t-shirt said as the passengers in Transit Long Beach Bus No. 94 turned towards his direction. "I'm sort of homeless today and I need to store my stuff."

My instinct as a reporter was to get up from my seat and bombard him with questions. But the fact that I'm not currently employed by any publication or writing for the Daily 49er, I wasn't sure how to approach him without a paper to back me up. 

"I guess I'm going to stay at a shelter until I find a place to live," he screamed at the person on the other line. 

Here I had a possible feature story in my hands and I just let it go. I could have pitch the story to my contacts at The District Weekly (if they still remember me) or to The Beachcomber.

But he got off the bus and no contacts were made.

Then I get to school, log on to The District Weekly webpage and what do I find? A beautifully written story by the talented Jenny Stockdale about a Cal State Long Beach graduate who is currently homeless and is living in his car. 

Stockdale—a former Daily 49er writer, illustrator and an all-around amazing person—writes that "the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in 2007 that there are more than 750,000 Americans experiencing homelessness at any given night."

Dereck, the story's homeless graduate, says that his procastination is the only thing to blame for his current homeless situation.

I wonder what caused my Quicksilver t-shirt guy to end up homeless. He didn't look like a junkie or some sort of insane person. But shit happens.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was homeless for two weeks. She told nobody. She showered at the gym, eat at friend's house and slept in her car. For two weeks. 

My friend and her mother were renting a room in a house. Their landlady was actually a friend of her mom. But her alcoholic ways made it impossible to live at peace and my friend decided that enough was enough.

She finally found an apartment, but it wouldn't be ready for two weeks. My friend told her mother to move in with her brother and she'd stay at a friend's house. The deal with her friend didn't go well and she ended up with no place to live. That's how she became homeless for two weeks. Oh, and did I mentioned that she had a full load of classes at CSULB? 

"We're all seconds, or inches or dollars away from tragedy and failure," Stockdale says.
That's right. 

I'm not sure why I didn't approach the man. Not being employed as a journalist was not a good enough excuse. There are ways to get my writing out there. 

To go up to him in what could probably be one of the worst days of his life and ask him to tell me his story so I can write about it just seemed so selfish. 

Either that or I lost a chance to help a fellow human being.