IT IS COLD STOP TELLING ME IT’S NOT THAT COLD

I was going to post on Tuesday, but I built a dresser. It is beautiful. It only took me 4 hours. 
dresser1
Friends of mine from places like Oregon *caughAlexDialcough* try to say that 44 degrees is not that cold.  Relatively, no, it is not. But experientially, for us San Diegans, it is THE MOST TERRIBLE COLD WHYYYYYY.

Consider this:

In places where snow is normal, you go out into the cold to do a thing for a maximum of, I don’t know, an hour.  You put on your booties and your snow sweater (IDK what these things are, I don’t need this knowledge) and you think to yourself, balls, it’s cold. Then you go back inside where it’s warmer and chill out on your smart phone or go shopping, okay?

IN SAN DIEGO, the experience of cold is inescapable.

We do not have heaters in our houses because they broke a long time ago, who needs them. Or if we do, turning them on and using them is not in our budget because it’s NOT SUPPOSED TO GET BELOW 60 DEGREES oh my god EVEN 50 DEGREES WOULD BE REASONABLE AT THIS POINT. Also rent is exceptionally high here (a lot of things are not in our budgets…)

We do not have warm weather clothes because they do not exist in San Diego. There is no room for these things in our closets (or budget, again). Even if you want them, you’re not going to find them at the mall. Our flannels are optimized for beachy breeze weather, not snow. Our scarves are made of light, breathable fabrics. You will find flimsy sacks of sadness, not rugged trench coats, at Macy’s. You have to go somewhere extreme like REI to find anything, and it won’t be fashionable. So you don’t buy these things. You put on your jeans and your sweatshirt and hope for the best.

Then we sit in our 44 degrees (same as outside) homes under a pile of blankets (also not exceptionally warm blankets). This is our lives for hours and hours on end. We don’t know what we’re supposed to do. Maybe if I put two pairs of socks on it will help? Why does my nose feel like an ice cube?

44 degrees would not be a big deal if I had a fortress of warmth. But I don’t. I will go make more tea with the microwave and try to convince the cat to cuddle me.

cat-on-notebook

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How to be a Secret Santa

Take a sheet of lined paper. Write every letter of the alphabet, one per each line, and the recipient’s name, last. Think of 26 words. Crumple the paper and throw it near, not inside, the wastebasket in your kitchen. 

Peel a tangerine. Draw a portrait of the recipient with a leaky ballpoint pen on the inside of the peel. Take a picture and send it to your 2nd best friend. Sit on the floor. 

Lay on the floor. Count backwards from 9 on your fingers. Count the letters of your recipients name. Sing an awful rap you make up, spelling her name. 

Get a box. Get a stack of magazines. Cut out every picture that reminds you of her. Put the best ones in the box. 

Go to the liquor store. Buy a cheap pair of sunglasses and an iced coffee. Go home. Drink half of the coffee. Write her name backwards in the the lenses of the sunglasses with a dry erase marker, and wear them. Put them in the box. 

Grab another sheet of lined paper. Write, “I want to get to know you better.” Draw a Christmas tree and a cat. Sign it, “Secret Santa.” Put this in the box, too. 

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Rain breaks my brain

Much like the rest of San Diego, I can’t seem to operate during the “rain.” And by rain I mean a light drizzle (or is it sprinkle? I’m not so good with the vocab in this area…). The sky is doing the wet thing and I am confused and I can’t do write good no more.

So here is a picture I drew:

Sketch raining in san diego comic

I Really Liked Jury Duty is There Something Wrong With Me?

jury duty juror badgeYou may have noticed I missed my posting deadline this week (if not, I have awkwardly pointed it out now, yw). Forgive me, I had JURY DUTYYYYY.

I first got my summons about, I don’t know, April. A friend of mine suggested I could throw it away — that if the government doesn’t directly hand me the letter, they can’t prove I actually got it. That reasoning was not enough to assuage my anxiety (ignored things never simply go away when you are paranoid like me), and also a case in the Federal Court sounded really important and potentially very interesting. I followed the instructions, which I don’t even remember now, and expected to get a followup.

Well, I never got that second letter. Likely it got buried under other mail, thrown out by someone else, or I missed it in some way. I mean, letters? In envelopes? With stamps? The only time I care about such things is when I’m expecting a love letter from San Francisco <3

Oh, also, I was probably at Burning Man.

One of the days I happened to answer the phone, a reasonably flustered federal employee asked, in kinder words, WTF happened Samantha? She let me postpone my service ’til December and I promised to pay attention to the mail this time.

I did but… I forgot to call in. They called me! Awesome. Call Sunday night, they said. So I did. Show up downtown tomorrow at 7:30am, the robot said.

WHAAAAAAAT??

Jury duty made me miss my fun date to the Birch Aquarium so I sent her snapchats of "fish" all day.

Jury duty made me miss my fun date to the Birch Aquarium so I sent her snapchats of “fish” all day.

I fell asleep planning my excuses. I’m an independent contractor: I won’t be reimbursed and jury duty will make me broke (um well not really but, they don’t need to know what a diligent money saver I am and how I can easily afford time off of work). I refreshed my memory on Jury Nullification, because previous research and life experience shows that if you hint that you disagree with the law itself, the judge and/or the attorneys will keep your butt off the jury bench. Don’t believe corporations are people (and don’t want to serve)? Mention it in voire dire.

During voire dire, I was surprised in reverent awe by just how much truth my fellow potential jurors chose to share. Several had experienced or witnessed trauma related to issues in the case, and could not honestly be impartial. Microphone in hand, many of them were moved to emotion. Others had truly difficult living circumstances that would be dire to disrupt by going to court every day. The judge was empathetic, and dismissed nearly all of them. People are fucking amazing, I thought. When it was my turn to speak, my desire to shirk jury duty seemed petty and I only told the truth.

Of course, service was not 100% solemn. I thought of us as the “slacker jury,” because a lot of us had similar stories of forgetting to respond to letters or postponing service as long as possible. December seemed like the month for total flakes. (Heh, snow flakes. Ok shut up not funny..) We laughed, judge included, at least once during the trial, and lots in the deliberation room. Still, we argued earnestly over the verdict, which we knew would seriously affect the defendant’s life.

THE CASE: Now that it’s over, I can share as many juicy details as I like. Our defendant, a Mexican national, was caught crossing the border with several pounds of crystal meth in his car, disguised as various automotive fluids and a bottle of tea. During the case, he would be treated the same as an American citizen. We had to determine if he knew about the drugs, or if, as he described the day he was caught, he was haplessly duped by a new acquaintance of his named Chael.

DUuuuuuudddeee Chael was a shadyyyy trickster. He spoke spanish with an interpreter, which meant he wasn’t as quickly interrupted as english-speaking witnesses when he totally tried to bullshit everybody. I mean, though he had special immunity for his testimony, he did not seem capable of telling the truth. Even the prosecuting attorney was getting IRRITATED as a wasp stuck in a bikini because he couldn’t get him to answer nearly any question in a straightforward way.

And the prosecuting attorney was kind of adorable. He was soft-spoken, kept messing up what he was saying, and one time didn’t have his notes for a particular witness. “Uh, I’d like to request a sidebar..” he said when he realized he didn’t have them, “It’s kind of embarrassing…” During his opening and closing arguments, he belabored the analogy that circumstantial evidence is like catching a kid with cookie crumbs on his mouth and inferring he stole treats from the cookie jar. Ok, yes, I get it but there were not enough cookie crumbs to convince me. Or like, any.

Edson dorantes notesYou see why I was having fun? This is like a dramatic performance. I got super excited when the dingball canine officer was nervously jiggling his feet during his testimony. I sat forward in my (nearly identical) chair like he did and decided such a jiggle was unnecessary. OMG I’M LIKE THE CSI I CAN TELL HE’S HIDING SOMETHING. I’d already become bored with the fact that he got so thrilled that the “tea” he found (actually, liquified crystal meth) didn’t look like tea to him and obviously thought he was a genius for his discovery. Hello, “white tea” exists and it says blanco on the bottle; you are not not uncovering important clues you are just dumb lucky.

When I got back from lunch, I noticed the canine officer’s involuntary facial tick and realized he’s just a jiggly person, not a liar. Seems I’m not that clever, either. Dammit.

Going into the jury room, I felt fairly certain the defendant was Not Guilty. He just seemed like a dumb kid (like, really, not smart enough to plan a crime) from a small town who got swept up by a richer, more popular friend-of-a-friend who saw the opportunity to trick him into smuggling drugs across the border. The recording made the day of his arrest seemed truthful to me, not like lying. I mean, I thought he might have an inkling that Chael was connected to some illegal stuff, but that this was sort of a “the less you know the better” kind of situation and he was not told about the meth scheme to take place in his own car. I also figured he was too much of a pushover to question Chael. Regardless, I didn’t think the prosecutor had enough evidence of guilt, and it’s “innocence until proven,” right?

Whoa-ho-ho, apparently not. Most of the jurors thought he deserved a guilty sentence! Luckily, there was another holdout like me (I don’t know if I could have done it alone) and we returned a hung jury. We were finally allowed to talk to the attorneys, and I met them outside to give them feedback. I found out after the case that he’d been tried before, and that hung jury had 8 Not Guilty votes and only 4 Guilty ones!!  Oh shit, Edson (that was his name) sorry to scare you like that. Hope there isn’t another trial, but if there is, better luck to you and I hope you can get back to chillin’ at the Tecate beer garden ASAP and be done with jurors like me.

In summary, courts are full of real people with real personalities and your decision as a juror affects real lives. I’d recommend anyone who is summoned to think of it as a meaningful diversion from your daily life, and something that could even make you feel grateful. I thought of it as the most important vacation I took all year.

Is the Oppressed Life like PTSD?

I struggle with trigger-induced panic. Often, it is easiest to say I suffer from PTSD, though I haven’t been formally diagnosed and do not want to diminish the experiences of others who may have it worse than I do. I know I used to feel helpless when others threw around the word “depressed” as if one could become such by the mere awful occurrence of a bad grade. “Oh my god I got a C- I am depressed.” I promise my use of the label PTSD is not so cavalier.

Lost-panic-typewriter-drawing.jpgYou see, it is true I fit the rubric. Exposure to trauma: check. Subjective re-experiencing of the trauma … hmm, one aspect of it, quite a lot. Newfound hyper-vigilance: definitely. Duration of symptoms for more than 1 month: you betcha. Significant impairment: well, is not going home with the pretty girl significant impairment? Being afraid to be barefoot? Flinching violently when I am touched?

Living life through this lens of panic has changed me. I avoid the strangest things, yet so gracefully, habitually, that I go weeks without noticing. My triggers also, over the years, have spread over more and more stimuli like a sinister net. When I am my most terrified, I imagine the cobwebs of fear will spread until I am forced to be completely immobile, lest I stir my spider of panic.

Ferguson and “Shirtgate” and finishing writing my book (which delves a lot into my panic) (oh yeah by the way I finished writing that) got me wondering if living in oppression is not unlike living with PTSD. Seemingly small infractions, micro-aggressions, seem to illicit a “disproportionate” response. That is, people who don’t know what it’s like to live with triggers and oppression do not understand such reactions. A guy tells me “bitches are crazy,” and instead of feeling mildly annoyed, I feel really sad. A guy asks if he can “watch” me have sex with my girlfriend, and instead of being bored with something I’ve heard before, I feel like my party is ruined.

Granted, this “disproportionate” response tends to only happen when I have a false sense of security, and am startled back into the realization that sexism is, like, prevalent. I’m not going to be as frequently shocked or upset at sports-bro-dive-bars because I’m inured to their stench. When I think I’m having a grand ol’ time busting gender/sexuality norms at a groovy kickback and someone blindsides me with one of these things, then, yes, it shakes me a little. Or a lot.

Sometimes, also, the things that really get me are ones that I know others do not see. I feel helpless because OH LOOK AROUND THIS IS EVERYWHERE… but I know I’ll be hard-pressed to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced that the way that guy talked to me was totally indicative of a major sociological problem and not, as my opponent might put it, “just being friendly.”

Yet, to the person with triggers, there is a landslide of connections to cause such panic. Someone runs their hands over my hands in the wrong way, and that connects to one event, which connects to another event, which connects to all of the events ever that have made me feel the monolithic spider’s legs closing around me, her venom dripping on my forehead, and I am reduced to a scared, fight-wild and flight-wild animal.  “Reduced to?” More like detonated.

I know the people without triggers don’t exactly understand. I know this, because the most aware, most well-intentioned, most loving people in my life still require multiple reminders to steer around the land-mines embedded in my skin and in my psyche. They seriously don’t want to hurt me, want to do the opposite of hurt me, but because they lack my vigilance, my daily lived experience, they can’t help but tread on my toes sometimes. (Ouch, foot metaphor hurts for multiple reasons.)

The difference between this PTSD thing, and suffering caused by oppression, is the locus of responsibility. People close to me and who know about my ish ought to be considerate, but healing is pretty much on me. This is my own private monster. The onus of easing the pain of and eradicating oppression, however, belongs to everyone.

Besides that, though, the requests for support I make of intimate friends (for my PTSD) and those with privilege are very similar. 1. If you don’t understand, stop and listen and be receptive to my perspective / the perspective of the oppressed. 2. If you mess up, be willing to try better in the future. 3. Be mindful of the difficulty faced, and how its systematic nature means it can affect every aspect of (my) life. 4. Do not feel guilty per se, but do feel like you have the responsibility to be respectful. 5. Do your own research. Answering questions can sometimes be fatiguing for me / the oppressed, and I  / we don’t know everything.

At the end of the day, if you knew something seemingly-small that you keep doing really hurt someone, would you still want to do it?