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Re-blogged from Adventures of a Brown Kid. It really touched me


So Thursday was a bittersweet day for me and some of my coworkers. My manager announced that she will be leaving the company come Aug. 23rd. She was the reason I got this blog and for that I will be forever grateful. I just want to thank her for pushing me at work and on reminding me to update my blog (haha) I guess I have to find someone else to talk about books, movies and find someone who reads the New York Times so they can let me have the calendar section.

From observation I can say she is stubborn, a very private person, a lover, a friend, a dreamer in secret, a lover of animals and obviously an amazing cook. You can see some of these things when you catch her gaze or by the way she carries herself. Her sense of humor is blunt and very European…

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The reasons why I fell in love with Los Angeles, one day at a time, are many and varied. And then there are those sudden moments when I am reminded why I love living here.

We don’t really get Summer thunderstorms on the West Coast – the closest we get to is a gusty wind, humidity in the air and a few, lonely drops of rain. Exactly what happened yesterday. While the sun was getting busy going to sleep, a rainbow briefly graced our sky which was exploding in a riot of colours. I rushed out and took pictures before everything went dark.

And, in the process, fell in love all over again.

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“I have nothing against gay people but..” and in that “but” is contained all the indignation, anger and hostility towards our President’s recent remarks in support of gay marriage. And the inherent indignation, anger and hostility towards gay and lesbian people in general. After listening to endless radio interviews with folks on the street on both sides of the issue, I got sick and tired of that racist preface “I have nothing against but…” But what? But are we going to move forward in time negating equal rights to fellow citizens?

If you are staunchly entrenched in the camp of “I have nothing against gay people but..”, it might be worth considering that same-sex marriage is one of those issues that does not infringe on anybody else’s rights. I am personally against the right of any citizen being able to own firearms, as I am convinced that if gun sales were limited to law enforcement and other selected few, murder rates would sharply fall. But I do realize that my position would materially alter the reality of those who feel the need to own a gun. Same sex marriage? It just won’t change anybody’s life – only the one of those who choose to make such a commitment.

President Obama, either pushed by Vice-President Biden’s comments or by the need to do the right thing, finally spoke a truth we suspected was his belief to begin with. It was ballsy and it was needed. Even if legislatively his support is of no significance, it was an emotional moment,  and one of enormous significance to all those men and women who battled for years to be recognized as equal citizens.

To all my gay and lesbian friends, congratulations. At last!


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Commenting or criticizing diplomacy is a hard task. By definition, diplomacy is conducted behind the scenes, it’s filled with half truths and the real wheeling and dealing does not become apparent for years, when the veil of secrecy is lifted. Which is why I am prepared to give our current Administration the benefit of the doubt in their dealing with the Chinese government over the issue of the Chen Guancheng, otherwuse dubbed the “blind lawyer”.

Could this be another case of American naiveté? So eager to have the scheduled bilateral talks go smoothly, did American diplomats really believe Chinese officials when reassured that Chen and his family would be allowed to live and work freely in China, provided he left the US Embassy where he had taken refuge following a daring escape from informal house arrest? This is where I am prepared to give our Administration the benefit of the doubt because I am loathed to have to agree, even on just one issue, with Republican criticism that we are too soft on human rights when it comes to certain countries, China being one of them (that Republicans actually care about human rights and that they are politicizing the issue during a Presidential campaign is another matter).

But it is true that, in an effort of cooperation with the economic powerhouse du jour, America has been skittish, if not downright lame, in drawing attention to the ongoing trampling of human rights in China, be they Ai Wei Wei’s imprisonment on fictitious tax charges, Chen’s virtual house arrest or the rights of Tibetans. With China owning a sizable portion of our country, be it real estate, businesses or debt, it’s understandable that a confrontation is not desirable. Yet, this country was built on an effort to right a wrong and has mostly acted accordingly over the last couple of centuries. Unless it’s more convenient to turn a blind eye, picking and choosing whose rights we wish to sponsor.

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I thought long and hard before committing these thoughts to paper – or the worldwide web as the case may be. I am an educated, middle class, white woman who has rarely been the target of racist comments or actions. I was called a wop by a “funny” friend when I first moved to London and, one morning, upon going to retrieve the paper outside my suburban home on the outskirts of “white bread” San Diego, I found human feces on my doorstep and two giant swastikas painted on my driveway. My heart skipped a beat and, for the first time, I felt what random and unjustified hatred feels like.

But, all things considered, I have been pretty immune from racial profiling, derogatory comments based on my skin and race or feeling threatened because of my ethnicity, all far too familiar experiences for most male black teenagers in this country, to the point that parents feel an obligation to instruct their children on how to react (or, rather, not) if randomly stopped by the police.

As a recent e-mail from a friend in Prince Albert, South Africa, reminded me, racism is alive and well. Prince Albert is a picturesque town of early Dutch settlers lodged in the Karoo desert, where, despite apartheid being eliminated in 1994, black people do not enjoy  the same life standards as white folks do nor are they treated equally – paid a pittance to work in the flourishing hotels and restaurants, picked on for expecting work breaks, made to walk for miles if wanting to participate in town meetings and living well segregated in the not so nice part of town. But without going as far as South Africa, a country that is still finding its footing in bridging econonic inequality (for both blacks and white) and a political system that works, Orlando, FL, is an excellent reminder of where things stand here. Nearly 50 years since Jim Crow’s laws were abolished, with seeming integration having been achieved, a black teenager is gunned down while walking home to his baby step-brother, having left the house to purchase candy at a 7-11. The culprit, a neighbourhood watch patrolman, claimed self-defense and 46 days went by before he was even arrested and charged with manslaughter, after an intense media campaign. He shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place and, even assuming he is the upstanding citizen his family claims him to be, he no doubt fell prey to the threat of the “other”, and reacted before thinking.

We are all culpable of prejudice but nobody would ever admit to racism. Yet, the fear of the “other”, the one different from us, is alive and well, whether the “other” is the Jews of old whose misunderstood faith confined them to ghettoes all over Europe, enslaved blacks, Muslims labelled en masse as terrorists or undocumented immigrants just trying to get by.

Trying to fight the Second Amendment in this country is a no starter but hoping that some ways of thinking are confined to books and movies such as “The Help” is naive. What a sad state of affairs.




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Massoud Hossain/Agence France Presse – Getty Images

There is no more pleasurable ritual than retrieving my New York Times from the bottom of the driveway first thing in the morning. Ottie and Portia in tow, rain or shine, we quickly climb back to the house and lay out our breakfast. As much as I enjoy my NYT app, especially when I am on the move, there is nothing more satisfying, in an old-fashioned way, than to sit at my kitchen table, smoothie in hand, turning the pages of my favourite daily, especially on Wednesday, Food Section day, the one I skip to first, with nary a glance to the front page.

In a digital era, it must feel less relevant, or less compelling to have to choose a photo for  the front page. Or does it? This morning, it was a photo that stopped me in my tracks before I even sat down, making me forget breakfast and food section. Frankly, it mattered little where the scene might have taken place. The silent scream of a little girl, body tensed in fear and horror, at the center of a pile of dead or wounded bodies, was worth more than a thousand words. A toddler, in his lime green tracksuit, head down on the ground, is perched atop a grown-up in a pose that indicates very little life left in him. It’s Afghanistan but it could be any other place devastated by sectarian infighting, civil war, terrorist attacks, occupation or dictatorship. The pain and the fear on the girl’s face, so alive in the middle of a still devastation, are a common denominator in far too many places.

I cut out the photo and tacked it to my office wall, to remind me of many things, especially the courage this little girl will need to wipe away the nightmares.

For the full article, click here click here


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Jermyn Street in London is not a place where I would habitually shop. Famous for its bespoke tailors and other extremely posh stores out of my financial league, it’s with some hesitation that I entered the Czech and Speake store at 39 Jermyn Street many years back. It wasn’t bathroom fittings I was looking for. The company’s founder, Fred Sawkins, saw an opportunity in the 1970’s that he promptly filled: high-end bathroom fittings that quickly became legendary for their style, creativity and exorbitant prices.

Somewhere in between designing bathroom fittings and accessories, Mr. Sawkins also had a fragrance created, No 88, from the street number of his design studio, also on Jermyn Street. I had been in love with that unisex, but mainly men’s, fragrance for years, since an ex-boyfriend brought it back from a trip to London. Unable to find it in the States at the time, I was determined to see if it would work on my skin.

Meandering among faucets and basins, I finally asked a shop assistant to spray some of the contents of the solid black bottle on my wrist. I circled the empty store a few more times to let the scent settle – the notes of bergamot, geranium, vetiver and sandalwood resulted more subtle on me than I remembered, with the rose in the background, just the way I like it. I find too much rose sickening. I shelled out the equivalent of $200 I could barely afford, ate soup and bread for the next two days and brought my precious cargo home.

I love my 88. I use it sparingly, never at work, because I don’t want to become inure to it. Every time I wear it, someone will invariably say “You smell nice”. It’s not so masculine to come off as aftershave on a girl and definitely not flowery and gentle like a girl’s scent. It just works perfectly on my skin. I have come to think of it as MY smell.

It was MY smell that greeted me when I opened the door to my house today. I looked at Ottie and wondered if he had taken a shower all on his own. Unlikely, he hates to get wet. I also wondered if Susy, who comes once a week to help clean the house, had brought some scented cleaning products – she knows I abhor them. And, anyway, the smell was a bit too good. I didn’t recognize it immediately as MY smell as it wasn’t on my skin. No – it was all over the bathroom floor, the beautiful satin black bottom smashed on the counter, next to a note from Susy, informing me of an “accident” she had with the perfume. I sat on the edge of the bathtub and nearly cried. Susy has broken a million things over the years and I thoroughly do not care. I am not attached to objects. At least, not most of them. My bottle of 88 represented  the memories of all the special occasions I wore it for, the mere act of spraying it marking the day or evening different from the rest. It was the self-restraint I displayed towards my favourite scent. Now I can smell it as I cook, as I am writing, as I go about my business around the house.

In the end, I couldn’t get mad. Susy cleans homes for a living and I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to pay her. It makes me feel good that my employment, certainly one of many, meant that she could buy a house of her own a few years ago. Even MY smell is just stuff in the end.

Later on, furtively, in between sentences, I logged on Amazon and typed the magic words “88 Czech and Speake” and bang! thank you Fred Segal who first imported it into this country, I can have it shipped to my door. For $209. I mentally review my credit card balance and I know I shouldn’t be adding, not with Christmas approaching. Is it so wrong to want my smell back? I secretly promise myself I will make it last for years to come. And I will hide it in the same cabinet with my secret chocolate stash.


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Do you work downtown, have long days and tend to need a Friday night drink? I am a sucker for places inundated with books and I found myself downtown in the middle of the week, early for an event I was attending, when I spotted the Library Bar, so named, presumably, because located across the street from the Los Angeles beautiful public library.

As soon as I entered the lightly dimmed bar, what caught my attention were the floor to ceiling shelves, laden with books that, for all I know, could be fake, those empty boxes made to look like books in order to fool thieves. Because who is going to sit in the darkness and peruse bar books? Certainly not the legal eagle type of patrons that seemed to crowd the floor. Still, from a decor point of view, it looks inviting, with sofas spread in front of the bookshelves and stools at the counter.

The place was nonetheless welcoming, with no attitude and friendly staff. The food offerings and drink menu are scribbled on the mirror that runs the length of the bar counter and the din is not so loud that having an end of day chat with a colleague is an impossibility.  Above all, the barman didn’t balk at my unusual drink order and the prices are reasonable – I don’t recall a happy hour being advertised but the website mentions a $2 deal for movie Sundays. And they stay open late into the night. Maybe worth checking it out in the wee hours and see who replaces the office crowd.


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Four decades on this planet have afforded me few truths, albeit strong ones, and none more so than my parents’ favourite refrain, summed up with “You must get an education”, no doubt stemming from their desire to give me a rosy economical future. My conclusion, though, is that getting and imparting an education is the only salvation this poor world of ours has.

Most of the woes we are witness to stem from ignorance – it’s a lack of education that allowed an imbecile Prime Minister to rule for over a decade and ravage my poor country, it’s a lack of education that pushes to the forefront caricatures like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, mouthpieces of one bite asinine statements with no bearing in fact, that are nonetheless treasured as truth.  It’s a lack of education that make throngs of Chinese people believe that rhinoceros’ horns powder cures all kind of ailments, prompting a poaching market that has left innocent rhinos to bleed to death all over Africa. Again it’s a lack of education that allows some tribal societies to stone women, kill homosexuals, keep girls from schooling and the list goes on.

No corner of this planet is immune or unhampered by it and the efforts to teach, whether  basic literacy or common sense to lunatics, have come to a perilous halt. Then again, it might all boil down to the economy. In Western nations, painful cuts are affecting institutions of learning from kindergartens to universities. Impoverished masses battling starvation in the Horn of Africa are using whatever little resources they have to stay alive, forget learning to read.

A few days ago, one of the young members of my team asked me if Italy had beaches. I sat down, grabbed a napkin and drew a crude map of the boot surrounded by seas. He is a bright kid and will never forget it and maybe will pass along that information to somebody else. Ignoring the existence of the Amalfi coast will not necessarily be detrimental in the big scheme of a life but believing that global warming is pumped up fiction or that Adam and Eve walked with dinosaurs is disastrous to the bottom line of a country that is not so slowly losing its leading edge, aided and abetted by the moral collapse of those who do have an education but prefer to not know or to look the other way for selfish reasons and a lack of care for those suffering.

I come from a Roman Catholic country, where the Church ruled supreme for centuries on a myriad of states with a simple trick – keep the masses in the dark. It seems like clever politicians and rulers the world over are perpetuating this crime with impunity. The Arab Spring is a mere drop in the ocean of collective awakenings – with the approaching of banned books week, it seems what we need more than ever, it’s those very same banned books of lore and new ones currently lost in the cacophony of survival.







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And it feels like yesterday.

September 11, 2001

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