All posts tagged: featured

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My Okasan

There I was butt-naked in all my glory. All of my fullness on display to behold. Though I dug deep to exude some composure, I moved as graceful as a mother seal sliding past a flock of watching seagulls. I pushed myself forward, head high. Being fully exposed with nothing to hide behind, I sensed that this was going to be a moment to remember. I was in Japan, spending the day at a local “onsen,” – a natural hot-springs bath house — in the “female-only” section. Surrounded by women of all ages, a naked communion was taking place, creating a sacred time to be with others, with nature, and with oneself. I should have tried to lose ten pounds before this trip. *  * I was here with my Japanese girlfriend, Takemi. I was giddy. This was another country that I had dreamt of visiting. As a child, every Saturday morning I would run to the television to see my favorite cartoon, The Adventures of Johnny Quest. Johnny explored foreign lands, along with his …

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Fire

The average house fire burns at 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. So I am in San Francisco having dinner; gorgonzola penne with shrimp, clam chowder, and sourdough toast at Cioppino’s on the wharf. My cell phone rings. It is my younger sister. “You have to come home! There’s been a fire. The house burned. Please hurry.” “Is everyone OK? Mom?” “Yes, she made it out. But …the house, our things, all burned. We can’t stay there anymore.” Is this really happening? I thought. No one hurt! Still, my mind went to the insurance. Was it current? I have been in San Francisco the previous few weeks, a choice assignment for a young government physicist from East L.A. My job is to protect people from harmful radiation. I am there to intern at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), a leader in health sciences, and to investigate possible radiation hazards in the area. Mornings, I walk from my apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district to the campus of UCSF at the foot of Mount Sutro. The campus is …

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Susana

The men from Rancho Chacuiloca knocked on Susana’s door bearing the news of her husband, Santiago. In an attempt to defend his friend from a grave accusation made by the Federales, he received a blow to the head with a .30-30 rifle. It was the 13th of November, 1913, three years into the Mexican Revolution; Zacatecas had become the battlefield between the agraristas – land reformers who believed that the land belonged to those who labored it – and the 34-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. A bloody civil war would last seven more years. At 26, Susana buried her husband and was left alone with her five children. Weeks passed. One morning, Susana left her adobe one-room house to fetch water from a nearby well; she instructed her children to remain, under lock and key. Susana never returned. Doña Petra, Susana’s mother, received word that the soldiers had left the region, but had snatched her, taking her by the waist as she walked home and forcing her onto a horse. Susana’s children were cared for …

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¡Ay Te Wacho!

When I was little, my Gramma would chase me around saying “I’m gonna eat you up!” and when she would catch me, she would pinch me and bite me. I would squeal – not because I was in pain, but because I found delight in her love and attention. As an adult, I turned the tables. I would grab her and hug her tight, kiss her all over and sometimes nibble on her. “¡No me ‘hogas (don’t suffocate me)!” she would yell as she pushed me away. “It’s all your fault, Gram,” I told her. “I learned it from you!” I adored my Gramma. She was one of my best friends. Then I was told my cariños, my gestures of affection, could be reported as elder abuse. By that time, Gram was no longer in control of her own life. She was a money-making business. *  * My Gramma was born in Mexico in July 1918, in a pueblito called Padilla in the state of Tamaulipas, which is located south of the tip of Texas. …