Tuesday, February 27, 2007

if i slow my roll, i'll stop

dear people in real life who are wondering if i've fallen off the planet:

you know when you are on a mission and--even though it makes no kind of sense at all-- you feel as though allowing yourself any sort of funhaving will deplete the crucial reserves necessary to carry out said mission?

yeah, i'm in that vortex. please forgive me, those who have forgotten what my face looks like. i'll be up in your video like puff daddy sooner than you know. pass it on.

love, cadiz

Saturday, February 24, 2007

ah, the beautiful people

George Gurley asks New York's Bungalow 8 patrons about their thoughts on Iraq for The New York Observer.

"Don't ever waste a moment in life. Fly to the moon and play amongst the stars, be happy, understand how lucky we are—and don't fight," she said. "I feel personally connected in one way—I'm a mother, and every day in Iraq somebody is losing their child. My little girl will never go to Iraq. I'm sorry, she'll go to Prada."

see the rest, here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

further proof that the "Auntie Patrol" exists outside of my imagination

last year there was quite a stir over allegations that 19-year-old Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan had plagiarized something like 40 sections of somebody else's work for her book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. later it was shown that her writing was in fact very similar to passages by author Megan McCafferty.

of course, a college sophomore whose book was in the process of film adaptation is already a talker, but several people found it an especially good conversational piece for me, "local representative of all indian-americans worldwide," because obviously, having similar heritage means i have a direct connection to her brain. yet i was embarrassed for my people. because as much as nobody likes stereotypes, you know there are those out there who made mental notes about this and will associate it with the entire group in the future. there was so much media attention, i had to check this one out for myself. besides, i wanted to know just what the hell was so great about it that ole girl got a book deal so young.

one of my coworkers had bought the book on eBay for four dollars and lent it to me. i'll save you the trouble of hunting it down (supposedly the publishers recalled most copies), but forgive me if i get some of the details wrong. basically this girl opal and her parents' lifelong goal is to get her into Harvard. she has no social life because she's busting her ass garnering the collective achievements of all the characters on tv's Head of the Class. she goes to her early admission interview with the Harvard people and they tell her to come back again when she has a life.

opal has a meltdown and, after her parents remake her into one of the "Plastics" from Mean Girls complete with manolo blahniks, she --SURPRISE!-- gets into that clique. of course it goes badly: she screws over the boy she didn't realize she liked while pursuing somebody she thought she ought to be with, realizes that being fake sucks, comes into her own, lands her man, goes back to Harvard and gets in. hooray! along the way, her parents tivo The O.C. and spout phrases like "gettin' jiggy wit it" and "bling" with what i can only imagine is a thick indian-parent accent. (hearing that in my head was by far the best part.)

after finishing the book, i couldn't help but feel sad for Kaavya Viswanathan. her character, backed by the blessings of her parents, is prepared to sell her soul in order to get into the ivy-league. and while the hoops opal jumps through may have been intended to be funny, how different are they from what the author herself did to get ahead? those of us whose parents sacrificed their own dreams to give us better opportunities know exactly what that means in terms of pressure to show them it was worth it.

Viswanathan has said in interviews that the book was a work in progress from when she was in high school. and while one can't argue the similarities between her words and the phrases used by McCafferty (whose books, Viswanathan admits to admiring), there are some things such as a desi*-minded take on current popculture that i doubt she could have gotten from anywhere but personal experience. that's the saddest part of this story. did she deliberately mimic McCafferty to ensure her book's success? or did rote-memorization techniques that likely helped her get that ivy-league admission unconsciously do her in? we'll never know. regardless, had Viswanathan's book not risked her credibility by piggybacking on somebody else's ideas, she could have still written a decent novel. but now that the damage is done, she'll never get the chance. it's a tough lesson for a kid, and an irreversible one at that. but it's okay, she can always go to medical school, right?

personally, i thought this description of what i like to call the "Auntie Patrol" was especially vivid:

Since all the Indian families lived in identical large center-hall colonials, drove the same cars (black or silver Range Rovers and Benzes), and shared the same twice-a-week Guatemalan housekeeper, Chlorinda, the only real topics of discussion at the ladies' weekly Wednesday lunch were (a) whose child was smarter/ more successful, (b) whose husband bought them the largest emerald set, and (c) do you think she really cooked that paneer herself? (If the hostess in question was ever caught trying to pass off catered food as her own, her days in the Woodcliff Indian social circle were numbered.) In the weeks surrounding crucial dates (November 1: early application deadline; December 15: early application decisions; January 1: regular application deadline; April 1: regular application decisions), topics B and C were completely submerged by A.

Competition between the parents was fierce and unforgiving. Last April, when my mom had hosted the lunch, I had seen the superficially pitying, inwardly gloating glances exchanged over masala dosai when Shalini Gandhi was rejected by Yale. The day Kishan Patel announced that he was dropping the premed track at NYU and entering Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, his parents shuttered their blinds for three days to avoid the shocked stares of their neighbors (everyone knew that an Indian who didn't study medicine was a failed Indian). Relations between Mrs. Kumar and my family were always strained because she had a son in my grade, who she was determined would make it to the Ivy League. I never had the heart to tell her that Amit was notorious throughout WHS for pretending to be a Sikh so that he could keep marijuana stashed in his turban.

the sentiment is dead on, even if the details are ridiculous. but just to be safe, i should get a copyright on the term "Auntie Patrol" before someone steals it for the big screen and i get no royalties. you know, it takes some serious cash to make sure Chlorinda does a good job buffing the rims on the 'Benz.

* desi (they-see): a word used by indians to describe something or someone as being from the motherland

Sunday, February 18, 2007

sorry, my body doesn't stretch that way

last night, cc got tickets to Cirque du Soleil 's touring show, "Delirium," through her work and invited me to go. she had already seen one of their shows in vegas, as had a few of my other friends, so i've heard a lot about it and have wanted to see them for a long time. i was thrilled at the opportunity.

the show is a spectacle: there's a flurry of characters, music, flashing lights, screens, projected images, dancers, a guy on stilts who was really creepy, several people suspended from the ceiling, and all sorts of unbelieveable acrobatics. it was so busy, you almost don't know where to look. i understand that, for this tour, they're focusing more on the live musicians and have incorporated much more singing and dancing than in what cc had seen in the past. regardless, it was definitely a sight to see.

my only beef was that, as we were sitting nearly dead center up in the balcony, some of the footlights on the stage would point up directly in our eyes and make it painful and difficult to see every once in awhile. other than that, i'm looking forward to catching another of their more acrobatic shows.

i did come away from Cirque du Soleil with a realization, however: all this time i've been telling people that, if my current course of action doesn't work out as planned, i'd join the circus. yeah, i'm going to have to come up with another backup plan.

Friday, February 16, 2007

new look

i have a little extra time these days, so i'm trying out a little something new. this photo was taken last summer about four blocks from where i grew up, even though it's nowhere NEAR classified as "rural." it's actually a lot surrounded by a Walgreens, a pretty major road and a college football stadium, and for years area residents and lawmakers have been fighting about developers trying to build a Meijer Superstore there.

in no way am i saying it's a picture of "hell." on the contrary, it's a tiny glimpse of how things used to look in the rose-colored memories of my youth.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

nothing says love like an empty megastore

valentine's day 2002: i pulled up to his house and put the car in park. the kid is terminally late. a song and a half later, he burst out the front door--jacket half on and hatless-- and got in. he threw a folded piece of printer paper in my lap, turned up the radio and began to slamdance in the passenger seat. the note was a cheesy valentine printout from some children's website, but a sweet gesture for a chill evening at IKEA because neither of us had a significant other with whom to get mushy.

if you hate crowds, valentine's day night is IDEAL for IKEA. not a soul was around to roll their eyes at us flopping on couches, spinning chairs, opening drawers, pulling back curtains. however an audience might have enjoyed the silly scenarios we enacted in the pretend-room displays. you know, if they weren't trying to shop for furniture or something ridiculous like that.

later, we went to a local pizzeria and shared a heart-shaped pizza pie. we felt right at home with all the families with kids jockeying for the cheesiest pieces and the curliest fries. we bitched and moaned over the state of our love lives, our jobs, our *plans,* and joked around in the usual way. a good time was had by all.

this year i'm disappointed that i can't be all sappy with H in person, but i did stumble upon this in my desk.

happy valentine's to you, highcon. don't be a stranger now that you've moved to the Big Apple.

and to the rest of you: you're special! wand-erful, even.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


i always tell H that southern california is boring because weather is always the same. i tell him that to really feel alive i need snow-- and not just on some mountaintops in the distance. i have said many a time, "if it doesn't fall on the driveway, it doesn't count."

well today, even after spending an hour and a half shoveling almost a foot of the stuff off the driveway only to look back and see that the area where i started had another inch on it from all the blowing around, i still stand by what i said.

however, it would be nice if the feeling returned to my fingers and toes sometime soon.

Friday, February 09, 2007

even the fake green grass looks rotten

sometimes when people try and support you, they inadvertently make you feel like a pile of day old sushi--with the rice all crunchy and dry and the fish all stinking and slimy. it's best to throw it out at once, crispy ginger slices, blackened wasabi and all. they don't mean to do it; they're coming from a place of love. but the incessant berating meant to kickstart you into shape just cranks up the volume on the chorus of your shortcomings playing twentyfour hours a day in your head and keeping you up at night. it happens.

once in awhile it's nice to hear someone say, "how are you today?" and leave it at whatever you choose to answer.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

graduating from old school

first, western union sent its final telegram last year.
and now the world's oldest newspaper goes digital.

i've never even sent a telegram and i can't read swedish, but stuff like that makes me sad.

Monday, February 05, 2007

what's the opposite of The Decider?

most people feel bound by guidelines, but i'm good at working within constraints. especially when cool higherups set the rules and say "go!" it worked for me in school Odyssey of the Mind competitions, which required inventing a device to accomplish a list of ridiculous things such as dropping an egg 10 feet without breaking it, putting out a candle flame, popping a balloon from 20 feet away, powering it with a brick, etc. why? because a) i'm very competitive b) i love a challenge and c) my creativity gets kickstarted by a) and b). also, the trickier the parameters the better my performance, and if there's a tight deadline, even better. it's insane, but it's how i roll.

for example, a couple of years ago cc asked me to be the maid of honor in her wedding. it was going to be a very intimate tropical affair and i would be the sole female attendant. normal people would be overjoyed: essentially, cc was awesome and said i could wear whatever the hell i wanted, in any color. perfect! however, i proceeded to freak out in every way, dragged the bride all over town for months trying on dresses and finally ended up sewing my own frock-- finishing the hem ten minutes before the ceremony while sitting in the beauty parlor with pins in my mouth and a needle in my hand as cc was having her hair done. it worked out all right, but the tranquil environment is probably the only thing that offset the ulcer growing in the pit of my stomach.

i know, i'm a freak. but this tendency poses a serious problem when it comes to sky's-the-limit situations. like right now, as i'm facing my ultimate personal nightmare: the opportunity to go pretty much anywhere.

it's been a little more than a month since i left the dungeon. now i'm half living downtown and half in suburbia, watching my savings slide down the drain called COBRA health insurance, but i'm looking into a private policy. i'm working part-time in a sector of my field that i might pursue; maybe having it on there will keep employers from throwing out my resume for lack of specific experience, but i don't often hear back from them. in the meantime, my boyfriend says he'd consider moving to wherever i find a job, my parents are being very supportive and my friends are sharing contact information.

anybody else would see this as an opportunity of a lifetime, but i'm chained to a fear that i'll get trapped in limbo and make a hasty decision to get out that will lead to decades of strife and misery. this sickness of uncertainty would probably dissolve if i sucked it up and made up my mind about what i wanted. but i'd rather crawl under the covers and not think about having to decide.

Friday, February 02, 2007

my hips certainly don't lie

it's no secret that i'm all about being indian. so of course i tried my hand at bharata natyam. however, unlike most people who start at an early age, i was a 16-year-old learning poses in a class full of gradeschoolers. soon enough, though, the teacher moved me up with people closer to my age, and by my senior year of high school she had me performing in a group with a few people who had even completed their bharata natyam "graduation," which requires many many years of extensive training. this was cool with me-- i sweat through my clothes, toned up my body (there's a lot of sustained crouching which hurts like hell but makes for great muscles), had fun with ri's sister in class and got to perform in some pretty cool places.

the teacher was young, beautiful and an accomplished dancer. she was strict with us, keeping time with a special wooden rod on a block of wood and mock threatening to smack us in the legs if we weren't "sitting" into the positions as we were supposed to. she said she had big plans for me, despite the fact that i'd be going away to school after only two years of training with her. she was confident i'd come home every weekend to continue. and while that was highly unlikely, there was a chance i might have gone back and trained with her after college, because i had found a day job nearby. that is, if i wasn't still pouting.

it was my senior year of high school. i had an afterschool job, was trying to pay attention in class, applying to college, maintaining a *secret* boyfriend (whom my parents pretty much knew about all along, what a waste of effort that was) and still looking for more time to goof off with my friends for the last months we'd all still be together before graduation. so i told the teacher auntie that i wasn't going to be able to come all the time because i was barely getting any sleep as it was with my schedule. she said it was fine, but to come over so she could introduce me to her guru, who was visiting from India.

obviously i wanted to meet this woman; my teacher revered her so much that she turned into a simpering lady-in-waiting in her presence. but what i thought was a visit over tea turned into a backbreaking lesson from the guru-- and NOBODY says no to the guru-- because she wanted to see what i was made of. the next thing i knew, i was roped into doing several pieces in a show with her; it perfectly ate up what little unscheduled time i had left. but i did it. i sat in those rehearsal rooms barefoot with no heat waiting for my turn and doing my homework in the corner, i stayed up all night finishing projects because of work and practice and i ended up catching a mammoth headcold. i felt like i had sacrificed a lot of a special time in my life out of respect for my teacher, but it was cool to be around all those accomplished people.

it was fine, i chugged some medicine and performed, happy for it finally to be over. there were so many people involved from so many places -- the guru had her chosen musicians and there were people from all over the area that came to be a part of it, kids, adults, everyone. and we had all put in hella time and effort, too.

teacher auntie took the mic at the end of the night and made a sweet speech, talking about how people gave up a lot of their precious time and reshuffled commitments to attend practice and kids stayed up late and moms ignored their families and everyone worked tremendously hard. standing up there, huffing and puffing in a line with all the performers, i was aw-shucksing and sheepishly smiling, sorta thinking she was talking specifically about me. and then teacher auntie individually called all of our names, from the littlest four-year-old to the guru, to step forward and take a bow individually.

except she forgot to call mine.

it was just an oversight, i know. but something in that moment just broke in me. i had been running on fumes for several weeks, not sleeping, skimping on things that meant a lot to me and a lot of it was to accommodate this damn show and this woman, whom i probably wouldn't see after i went away to college. i was sick, drugged up and more tired than i could explain. and she made sure to thank the kids who played foliage but forgot about me?

i went to the dressing room and started ripping off all the jewelry and extra costume pieces and stuffing them into my bag. teacher auntie saw i was annoyed and apologized to me. i said it wasn't a big deal, but it WAS a big deal. i felt like such a fool. i had bent over backwards to appease this woman and i wasn't expecting anything from it, but i thought i deserved as much as everyone else. i felt like a fool for being guilted into it in the first place and i started to cry, just like i had when i was six and lost my doll. appropriately, a six-year-old looked at me with disgust and said to her friend, "look! such a big girl and she's CRYING!" and laughed.

that was it. i was done with this auntie and her cackling proteges. on top of that, she never managed to return all those costume pieces that i stayed up all night sewing, either.

that was more than ten years ago. i haven't thought about that woman or what happened for a very long time. until this morning, when i was flipping through a magazine and read that teacher auntie's dance company in chicago impressed Shakira so much she wanted to work with them. teacher auntie and four dancers were flown out to new york, two of them were featured ON STAGE, ON MTV during the introduction to the "hips don't lie" performance at the video music awards in August.

i couldn't help but wonder if, in some kind of an alternate universe, i could have been bumping hips with Shakira on television.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

yeah, yeah, but what's in your portfolio?

the other day at the office, someone came in wearing red hotpants with black stockings, knee-high furry black boots and a clingy, semi-transparent, shiny gold leopard-print top.

i'm ashamed to admit it, but yes, i judged this woman. why? because she sits in the "design" section of the office. don't get me wrong; she seems like a nice enough person. and i accept that it was probably wrong of me to do so. but it's just that it reminded me of so many people out there who wear their artsiness on their sleeves, shoes, or hair, then walk around like everyone else ought to lay sheafs of fluffy watercolor paper in the path of such creative genius and as if every thing that comes out of their mouths is so very profound, all because of their look.

please get over yourselves, artsy-fartsies.

i am completely down with people expressing themselves outwardly through appearance, but the bottom line is this: dress however you want but let your work speak for itself. oh and leave your hoitytoity attitude at home in the crayon box.