Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Firestorm 2007 - My Story

pictures taken by: April Pablo

(taken from my personal blog)

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. My roommate's phone went off because Ading Chris was calling to let us know the latest news update.

Last night, wind was blowing hella hard against the trees and against my window.

Hmm. I don't even know where to start. Because I think this began far before we found out that this shit is as big as it is. This past weekend was a trip! This past Saturday was forever ago. Our trip included travelling along the 15, passing the 78, the 65, the 5, the 2, the 91 and other freeways. Half of which have been jumped by wildfire. I'm hella scared, y'all. We were driving along wondering what the fuck was up with all of the brown musty air we were driving through. That was on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, after a long 24 hours of going through the emotions, we drove back and cut through even biggers clouds of what we initially thought was brown fog. We were wrong. Thank human technology, American capitalism and Apple for monopolizing the cell phone market (just this once) because April's iPhone provided us with our first clue towards what determined our next 24 hours. Fires burned in Malibu.

The embers from the fires in Malibu have definitely caught on here in San Diego. There are 8 different fires here in San Diego, 2 of which have been 5% detained. 5% ain't shit. This is for the people back at home that are worrying about me. This is for the people that have ever wanted to empathize with people experiencing what could be tragedy. This is for people who don't fucking get how serious and REAL this is to me.

I went to school yesterday, in La Jolla. Thinking that I had escaped any ugly weather, cuz after all, this IS San Diego. (I even had a cherished conversation with someone about the great San Diego weather.) Now, the weather is unlike the way it was commonly referenced during that conversation. Little did I know, those clouds were chasing right after us. This could happen to anyone, foreal. SO if in the back of your mind, you're like "Oh, I'm glad it's not me" well then YEAH. GOOD THING IT'S NOT YOU because maybe this is meant to challenge and reaffirm those who needed the validation more.

How do you pack a life into a suitcase? I asked myself this question in deep thought and out of leisure before, but I never thought that I'd actually have to ask myself in case of an emergency. I went through the emotions again this morning. Last night. During dinner. Right now. I have to force myself to part with a room full of replaceables. I don't know where my important papers are, all I have is identification. The people on the radio say that the most important thing to save is myself. I agree, but really, I know bureaucracy. I know this system. Papers are made important.

Last night we all gathered around Jon's laptop 1950s style to listen to the radio. It was very traditional of us, I suppose. And at the same time, very necessary. As I fell asleep, I could hear the wind against my window. I could feel something wrong. And I have to open myself up to the very possibility of a sense of urgency. I'm scared. Reminded of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Reminded of my experience in Louisiana. Reminded of times when I wished that I could feel this out for myself. Reminded of empathy. And to empathize.

Dorothy and Chris came home later than I did last night. And when they entered the house, I could smell the smoke emitting from their clothes as they trudged past me. We could see the way the light didn't shine through the window onto our neighbor's side of the house like it used to. The smoke and ash must have swallowed up the light.

Although my roommates and I crack some inside jokes every now and then, I still think that smiling accidentally due to laughter makes me feel guilty. Something similar to survivor's guilt. Like this safe space is undeserved. Because there are already hella people that have lost their homes. But I'm sure that this is what these kinds of emergencies often do, sparking craze to make the already underprivileged feel even more frustrated.

I woke up to Ading Chris' phone call to my roommate Dorothy. Sheepishly, I ask what's up and she recommends that we leave right away. We pack only essentials, so once again, how do I pack up my life thus far into a suitcase? My stream of consciousness led to me to believe that I should pack things that I'll need for the future, or things I'll miss - everything else "essential" must have slipped my mind. Freaking out, I have to force myself to remain calm. I have to force myself to rest under utter confusion. I have to make sure I'm prepared. We pack clothes for a couple days, I packed blankets, folders that I think I'll need with these 'important papers', and I mentally pack away any vulnerabilities that can trigger an outpour of rootless tears. I don't know whether I should push forward or quiet cries. I don't know.

The weather is HELLA bad. Ash floating along tainted air, this air and smoke takes the shape of my lungs and I cough out to grasp more of the fresh air I think I had when I was inside our house. I wrap my thin scarf around my face because Dorothy recommends that it'll filter any of the bad stuff out. I believe her, she's been quite a recommend-er thus far. Ash has pocketed itself into unlikely crevices. I open a car door and ash comes out, floating again. My shoes scuff our driveway and ash appears lifted but only to climb back down again. I wore my running shoes, just in case.

We take two cars and head towards La Jolla. I called my supervisor/mentor earlier when I woke up and she recommended that we head towards school. But then that's where Tep and I found out that school was officially cancelled. We headed to the Cross-Cultural Center to figure out where to go and how to simultaneously save the world at the same time. Crowding a round table with our laptops, personal shit and breakfast food.

I called my mom to tell her what's going on. She laughed when I told her that I brought my blankie over other items. I was thinking about what I would miss the most, not about what what I would need the most. This is where "essentializing" fails. Because I was thinking long-term, which is a little silly, but foreal, whatevs. I've contacted most of my friends from back home, and I'm shocked at how this news hasn't reached as far the Bay as much as I'd like. But when yall asked me if I've been affected, then I would say YES. And if I'm alright, then YES, I would appear to be alright. This is even difficult to think through because I still think that my smiling is unforgivable. I can't sit in front of the television set anymore, so that's why I must write type. Anyway, I'm glad my mom doesn't know what's exactly going on here. I'm a little comforted by the fact that she doesn't have to worry as much about me. Life has already spared us earlier this week, I don't wanna give her another reason to stress. Bad enough that both of her children are down in Southern California. But having George Dubya declare a State of Emergency in California doesn't do anything. I just have more illogical reason to keep to myself, but away from home. So every interaction with the unfamiliar down here in SoCal is that much more of a reminder that I am not at home. In San Jose. With my parents. With my brother. In my room. Under my covers - the only place in this world that cannot be shaken. But I'm OKAY here. I really, really am.

So we decided to head over to Jay's heezy. I'm very thankful for this place right now. Things have been really confusing and stressful and uncertainty is also hard to live in. But now all of my roomies + Ading Chris are together and I'm glad that we have forged a family.

Convoy Street for dinner wasn't as poppin, but still poppin. Amazing how some people can still gather themselves to look hella hip hop amidst this craziness. But the ohmygods, the what the fucks, the what ifs and all other exclamations do not put themselves away for anything. When I'm quick to judge, when I'm wondering why there's gray haze all over the place, when I wonder what's not being aired on television. It all adds up to a simple fear of being powerless.

Doro, Carms & Chris headed back to Mira Mesa to grab some real important things. They call to confirm the checklist of our belongings that me, Tep and April asked them to remember. They say that it's hard to breathe there. I believe it and I'm even more scared because they're up there. The only thing separating us from the 56 freeway near the wildfires is the 56 freeway. The news channels need not leave the 56 freeway as a boundary line because it doesn't stop a fire from jumping the freeway.

The wildfires are affecting all of San Diego. It feels like smoke is closing in on all my San Diego. I see people with shirts held over their noses, or with gas masks or with some form of protection from the smoke. Sleeping that night was harder and easier to do at the same time.


I wake up to Ading's bootybootybooty ringtone for his mom. There are now 10 fires in San Diego. Solana Beach was evacuated overnight. School is still cancelled. And I'm feeling like my mental is cluttered. And I expect to be extremely moody this week. Cristina texts me and tells me to call her "right when she gets this!" So I talk with the roomies for a little bit and go back to sleep for a little. When I finally called Cristina, she swooped me up and we went to Target, had lunch and walked around Mission Valley. Every time we stepped outside, the air seemed to get drier and more dense. The pungent smell of exhausted fire breathed into me.

I talk a great talk with Cristina about friendships. Some people should try it.

One of my roomies calls me to tell that school's canceled for the week. Still out with Cristina, I've already (somehow) decided to get my ass home. Because the reality is that San Diego isn't safe right now. I bought a one-way ticket to Oakland (because San Jose flights were all full) at 4:00p, got back to Mira Mesa before 5:00p, left at 5:30p, got to the airport at 6:00p for a 7:50p flight and I arrived in the Bay at 9:15p. This has definitely been A TRIP.

I haven't really seen news about the SoCal fires up here. The governator is already talking about re-building. says that the Marines will help this time around. More people have been displaced and evacuated than when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the news anchors say. People are always comparing this shit to Katrina, but no one knows about Rita. How this destruction is even comparable is beyond me. I really feel for the people whose addresses are posted on the news marquees - if your number is listed, then it may not be standing, unless otherwise stated. This reminds of the Look & Leave program. Reminds me of how San Diego is not home this time around, how I'm not from here. Reminds me of how fortunate I am to be able to leave.

Ashes are residual matter. And it is also a reminder of what once was.

pictures taken by: April Pablo


Sunday, October 21, 2007

America's Asian Fetish

Oh, Tila Tequila.

How else can we think about the hype and her personality? At first, I just didn't understand how so many people could fall into her. And how millions of people would add her on MySpace, go so far as to leave a comment and then leave a sexually suggestive one, at that.

This is about more than just witnessing America develop its Asian Fetish. And yes, I do think that Americans have an Asian Fetish deriving from Orientalist perceptions. Orientalism is to other, to create Other-ness and also determine lands now known as Asia and the Middle East as far away, exotic locations. To 'Other' is as if to 'Third-World' a nation. To label land and the people seemingly tied down to it as Others, less than, lower, unworthy compared to the comparer. Or to inadvertently exclude a people that are perceived to be a part of a nation, or of a certain land. Nation doesn't necessarily mean land. And I'm not tryna get all Ethnic Studies (which is also problematic!) on folks, I'm being foreal. Othering takes place all the time.

To call an Asian woman exotic means to call her strangely attractive. Therefore, exotic, is an oxymoronic compliment (or comment, rather). This is triggering, detrimental to the image and representation of the Asian woman. This kind of attraction is skin deep and the sores run under the surface. To call an Asian woman exotic implies judgement based on shallow and superficial assumptions. Tila Tequila represents white America's proclamation of an Asian Fetish. Their obsession with her body, their creation of her new Flavor-Flav-like dating show and their emphasis on bisexuality further appropriates America's allowance and perpetuation of the Asian Other. And not just Other, but Woman.

Stemming from the sadly stereotyped hypersexual Asian female, rebirthed from the early 20th century Asian prostitute, then twisted into a sexual being and actively made to be the inscrutable staple character to which the white imagination masturbates. Asian women are left to retrogress. We waiver, attempt to take strides racing against Other races. This is gender. This is sexuality. This is race. This speaks to the regard in which Asian women are essentialized!

With the presence of an Asian woman on-screen, America can pat itself on the back for diversifying the variety found on TV guide. When in reality, a reality show is like ten steps back into for Asian American actresses who work hard against being cornered into an oversimplified role taken from Asian American history. Asian Americans are continually excluded from real opportunity but made to work for a system that privileges money-making over self-respect. Tila is popular for her body. For dressing in scantily clad outfits, and for being Asian while meeting white standards of beauty (and I'm especially noting the hair). It's not mere coincedence that an Othered woman is used to explore herself through sexual means.

I don't want to be any type of surprised (even if it's un-surprised) by what makes good television, or by what intentionally is leftover for people of color in the entertainment industry, or by what subordinate positions are pre-determined for marginalized identities.

America, fuck you for your Asian Fetish.


Monday, October 01, 2007

it's october 1st!

The start of Filipin@ History Month

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