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Entries in Florida (2)


On Going Home. But Not Being 'At Home'

The Bloggess, or Jenny Lawson, the woman who once brushed up against me while we were getting on a bus and said, Oh, I know who you are, you're a great writer right after I stalkerishly introduced myself, happens to have a hilarious memoir called Let's Pretend This Never Happened. In it, there's a chapter about visiting her hometown after having moved to another city.

It was a well crafted chapter full of wisdom. It possessed a sad beauty and sense of longing that I found slightly boring in the most blaspehmous of ways. I guess, it's just that I couldn't relate. Having lived within the same forty five minute radius my entire life until recently, I never knew what it was like to go really away, make somewhere else your home and then come back to what used to be your home.

I'm not an idiot, I'm aware that this moving away and then coming back thing happens often. Like the way I know people wear crocs or buy tofu. You know these things happen, but unless you have to do it -- it's hard to wrap your mind around.

I Do Love Florida. But. Wait. There's More.

At this very minute, I'm at the home that used to be my home before I got married.

Surprisingly, I'm not very "at home" right now. I look around at the place I've always known and I see things I never really noticed before. Like, wow, Florida has a lot of palm trees. There's a serious love affair going on here between the citizenry and flip flops, too. Also, lizards. And palmetto bugs.

Plus, um, who do my parents think they are, having a whole life full of activities and people that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my brother?!

Florida, whether in the detailed or general sense, is kick ass. Powdery beaches. T-shirts that are considered "dressy clothes". Many of my deepest connections to the human species reside here whether through blood or love. No doubt, this state and the sandy town where I grew up is like a perfectly worn pair of jeans that have stretched in the right places but are also tight around other places which bypasses the torture of having to squeeze into Spanx that became too small for me one child ago.

Yet these jeans are sitting a little too high on my waist for me to feel completely presentable.

::Initiating dream sequence::

And what... the... are they... stone washed and tapered?

Um. Who put this braided leather belt from the Gap circa 1991in the belt loops?

Was it the same insane person that "pegged" the cuffs of these jeans, folded them over, put scrunchy socks and a pair of white keds on my feet? And then wrapped a flannel shirt around my waist? This is Florida, why do we even HAVE flannel here?!

Suddenly, these jeans don't feel so comfortable.

I feel the pressing need to get them off of me. I do need comfortable jeans, though. But these just aren't the right ones any more.

Is there another pair around here, just as comfortable... just as worn and fitted in the right places?

::End dream sequence::

Never to be Duplicated

When my parents talked about their lives in Pakistan and India when I was a small child, it was no different than fairy tales for me. The fantastical nature of these conversations was less about seemingly exotic places and more rooted in the idea that my parents were once very small just like me.

In my teenaged years, the stories became repetitive and my adolescent brain interpreted them as being rife with self righteousness. Maybe it was an attempt to transmit cultural memory on their part, but something about their stories in those years echoed Polonious' "To thine own self be true" rant to his son. Which, by the way, everyone who quotes that line should know that I'm 99% sure Shakespeare was trying to illustrate that Polonius was sort of stupid and not very wise. So. You know. Consider not quoting it any more.

Anyway, into my twenties, I heard those stories in a new way. I dissected them for clues from the past that explained who my parents were and why they did what they did now. With the wonder of my childhood and the defenses of my adolescence stripped away, I developed a compassion for my parents' carefully concealed emotional frailty, and, best of all, the humanity embedded within the tales and the people who told them. 

Now, I'm in my dear-God-seriously(?!) late 30s still listening to the stories and feeling sympathetic for people who are unable to let go of the then and embrace the now. The stories began as entertainment in my mind and then evolved into near manic efforts to remind me of "where I cam from." Thankfully, they became successful attempts at connecting with me on an emotionally mature level.

But they now seem like crutches for people who find the past far more interesting and satisfying than the moments (and people) that currently present themselves, and I'm not going to lie -- that hurts my feelings a little.

My nature is to cast the past off gently with a light kiss so it can be on its way. But here moments in the past can sing siren songs about a time of highly individualistic freedom, careless words and hours in front of the mirror perfecting various "eye make up concepts". But the songs of the past are tricks aimed at lulling the disquiet that accompanies addressing the reality around at us at this moment. The company I kept so long ago has gone on its way, the air has changed, the sky is different and... seriously, there are way more palmetto bugs.

I fully embraced and lived those moments and the idea of somehow trying to recreate those feelings or that person feels all wrong -- not in the ethical sense like ketchup on prime rib, but more so in the mayonnaise with French fries sense.

I'm learning to breathe the new air in this old place and to look up at the new sky in this hometown and quietly say, "Hi, we used to know each other really well a long time ago... what you were will always be important to me, but I'm ready for us to know each other for who we are."

It's been awkward, so that's why I've been quiet as I tend to not share thoughts until I know exactly what I'm feeling. Headed for home on Saturday. Looking forward to the resuming the 'now.'

What is it like for you when you go home? Do you just pick up where you left off or is it awkward?

photo credit: kevin dooley via photo pin cc


Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in Kissimmee

"not knowing where to go
not knowing where to be
i choose to be a follower
in search for the leader in me

i know it won’t be easy
and as crazy as it seems
i choose to be a follower
a follower of my dreams"

-- Adnan, "follower"

Around 11p.m. the night before the rally I got an e-mail from Britt telling me that we could get press passes at the Obama site via our blogs.  How amazingly awesome and very cool is that?  I went to the site, put in as my organization, and, voila, I was officially a member of "the media."

We arrived at the Osceola Heritage Center around 6:30 and waited with the rest of "the media" (yeah, I'm going to be putting that in quotes for the rest of the post) for security checks that were scheduled to start at 8:30p.m.  Something that didn't escape our notice was the fact that nobody from "the media" seemed to be talking to the people who were standing in line waiting to see Clinton and Obama speak.  So, of course, salt of the earth that we are, Britt and I made the rounds of the lines and started talking to people.

The campaign hasn't exactly been subtle about the fact that hispanic votes prove critical in Obama's courtship of Florida, and the enormously long line of people reflected the efforts of that agenda.  I spoke with a hispanic woman and her daughter, both sporting Obama T-Shirts, who had been in line since 3p.m. that afternoon.  "I'm here because we need change," and then she called over her three sons, ranging somewhere between the ages of seven and seventeen, and said, "I'm here for them."

Among the throes of a people, I spotted a young woman wearing a hijab, and decided she was someone I wanted to speak with, as well.  Zayna, a nineteen year old American of Syrian-Egyptian descent, voted for Barack Obama. Zayna's participation in the political process didn't end with just voting, though.  She also participated in non-partisan voter outreach, and was part of an early voting initiative among Central Floridian Muslims.  I had to keep my cool "media" exterior and act nonplussed, but I found this young woman's level of service and committment to our political process very impressive.

Around 8:30, we herded through security, got our media badges, found a table, and pulled out our laptops only to find that there wasn't a WiFi network available.  So, I twittered.  And twittered.  Then, I got bored with that and decided to go talk to the only other "desi" looking person in the media section.  It ended up that this gentleman, did not just look Indian.  He was, in fact, an Indian.  K.S. Chakrabarati, is the assistant editor of a Calcutta based Bengali newspaper and has been following the Obama campaign for about four weeks.  (I think.  Between both of our heavily accented Hindi dialects, it was impossible to verify).

One of the major differences between American political campaigns and Indian campaigns, he noted, was that Americans were much more "festive" at rallys.  He also noted that we are more public about our party affiliations and who we plan to (or have already voted) for than voters in India.  Given how U2 and "Life is a Highway" were alternatively blaring around us and people were screaming, "OH-BAH-MAH," I can see how he came to that conclusion.

And when I ran out of interesting and credible questions to ask Mr. Chakrabarti, I twittered, listened to Britt's impersonation of a person dying of frostbite, and laughed at the guy sitting in front of me who answered with complete seriousness, "Irish" to my question of, "Which network (WiFi) are you using?"

Around 10 p.m., the show got started.  Congresswoman Corrine Brown started off the rally with a speech that had strong references to the 2000 election.  "In 1992," she said (no, actually, yelled) "Florida voted Democratic.  In 1996, Florida voted for the Democrats.  And in 2000, Florida voted for Democratic."  This theme reappeared in the talks of the next few local speakers, too.  I'm still trying to figure out the exact point of that reference.  Given Obama's focus on national unity, I felt that suggesting that the Republicans had stolen Florida's electoral votes in 2000, was just a little violently partisan.  (Of course, I think Al Gore took Florida, too, but if Al Gore wasn't going to fight for Al Gore...let's just suffer for four years, oops, eight, and move on.)

A highlight of the evening for me, besides the obvious, was actor Jimmy Smits.  I have had a crush on Jimmy Smits since he was on L.A. Law, which was about a million years ago.  Anyway, Smits spoke directly to the hispanic population in Florida.  "I want to hold my head up high and say it was our vote that made the difference."  And then, I had to snicker when he mentioned that the character he played on the West Wing, President Anthony Santos, was actually modeled on Senator Obama.  I don't know why I thought it was funny.  Maybe because I pictured some undecided voter in the mass of people there thinking, "Really?  I did not know that.  Hmm. I loved that character.  I think I will vote for Obama."

And then Senator Bill Nelson, who was an astronaut, introduced Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  Together.  The air was, to be completely trite, electric.  I'm sorry, there's just no other word to describe it.  Bill Clinton spoke first and he was magnificent.  I'd forgotten how endearing it could be when he drops the last consanant of some of his words.  You know, how he says, "givin'" instead of "giving"?

The most outstanding part of his speech, IMHO, was when he told the crowd about how Senator Obama had called him, Senator Clinton, Warren Buffett, and several other key people before taking a stance on our current economic situation.  "He knew it was complicated," President Clinton said,"and we need a President who understands...who can understand..."  Gosh, I actually felt bad for George W. when he said that.  Having fifty percent of the population call you stupid, that's one thing, but having Bill Clinton call you stupid?  Ouch.

And then, Senator Obama spoke.  Much of what he said has been said before, at debates, at the DNC, and on infomercials.  He addressed the charge that he's a socialist, though.  "Now, they're saying I'm a socialist because, years ago, when I was in kindergarten, I wanted to share my toys..."

I know that there are a lot of people who beleive that Barack Obama wants to coddle the supposedly "undeserving poor" of this country.  I suppose that's why they're deeming him a socialist.  I know, academically, what a socialist is, and I don't think he quite fits that description.  Then, again, I'm quite clear on what a Republican is supposed to be in the academic sense of the word, and I'm pretty sure most of them don't fit that description anymore either.  I say, either we all have a big meeting about creating "working defintions" of these terms, or people should just stop using them.

This I am sure of, though, Barack Obama was very clear that the people in that stadium tonight would have obligations to this country when he is President.  He made promises about higher standards of education, for example, but ended with “parents, you have the responsibility to turn off the TV set and make sure that your kids are doing their homework.”  This message came across several times: the restoration of America would not be his job alone, that it would be our job.  He openly stated that government cannot do everything for us, and that there is much that we have to do for ourselves.

I'm voting for Barack Obama.  Socialist or not, he represents the type of politics and values that I would like to see prevalent in this nation: clear headedness, intellect, tolerance, integrity, respect, self reliance and a general regard for the dignity of all people.  I don't have a problem that people in this country are wealthy, hell, some people might even consider me, at least, moderately wealthy.

I do have a problem with disparity and lack of access.  And, frankly, I'm just a little fed up with people implying that if I am generous with my wealth, I will somehow lose it.  I assure you, there's enough prosperity in this nation to go around so that you can still be rich someday and less fortunate people can also afford healthcare, keep their homes, and educate their children.

OK.  That's it.  Almost.  Tomorrow's post is going to cover the more humorous side of two pseudo-"media" blogger wannabees as they fake it until they make it at the Obama rally.

P.S. I'm so tired.  I just couldn't edit this post.  Sorry.

P.P.S. If you want to take a look at my play by play of the rally.  Go here.