Samba pa (Ta)ti

I met him late one night. It was dark and I couldn’t make out much of the details of his face, except for a furrowed brow as he worked under the hood of my Jeep. I offered kind words of thanks, but he acted like he barely heard me. When he was done, he gave his daughter a sweet kiss on the forehead and glared back at me with an I-know-what-your-intentions-are-with-my-little-girl look.

I was mortified, but he wasn’t wrong.

Not too long after, we became fast friends. We had a shared love for boxers, Santana, power tools, and milkshakes. We had so much in common that he began calling me junior. But like my nickname, I was always inferior to his every move. He beat me at Scrabble, at poker, at video games, at the punch line to my own jokes. He beat me at Monopoly, at building shoe racks and at painting walls. He exhausted me and riled me up at the same time. And right when I was ready to ring his neck, he’d look at me with kind eyes and say incredibly tender things like how lucky he was to have two daughters.

He wasn’t wrong, but I was lucky too.

For a little while, I too had two dads. One, clean-shaved cerebral puritan, the other a loud potty-mouth fur ball. One a musician, the other a philosopher. One couldn’t agree to disagree, the other (very literally) built a space for me in his home. But like parallel lines, they were never destined to meet. Until today.

Jose Angel “Tati” Garcia had the most extraordinary heart. Although his doctors would disagree, it was a perfect organ. He loved loosely with it. He felt intensely with it. He fired off quips with it. He, at times, told you to go fuck yourself with it, too. His heart came through his boombox of a laugh and his suffocating bear hugs. His heart came through when he would grant you mercy during a wrestling bout or a tickle fight or while biting your finger for no apparent reason. You would feel his heart skip a beat whenever he was with his wife and his heart burst with pride when he was with his daughter.

Tati was born with a heart defect, sliced open and miraculously saved as a baby. His heart withstood being raised by a single, young mother, while his dad, a political prisoner, rotted in a Castro jail. As a teen, his heart ripped when he was separated from everything he knew and sent to Spain by way of the infamous Peter Pan operation. Then, it was mended when he was reunited with his mother in Miami. Decades later he healed some of those scars when he was reunited with his father. He lived his life taking care of both of them and making sure they had everything they needed.

His heart grew exponentially when he met his match. He knew instantly that this would be the woman he would marry, so he did, quickly, not to waste anymore time. Together they had exactly one baby and became a 3-person unit. At times finishing each other’s sentences and laughing at inside jokes that were so inside a look would be suffice to set them off. He gave up trying to teach his daughter how to play tennis, so he took up learning how to dye her hair. And when it was time for his wife’s office Christmas parties, he was sure to bring his signature John Travolta moves. In every way he could, he spoiled them the only way he knew how – with his love.

He was beloved, not just by his parents and his wife and daughter, but by his co-workers. For many years he worked maintenance for City National Bank. He woke up every day before the sun, put on a blue collar button-down shirt with his name sewn over the left pocket and his navy Dickies. He filled his days not only with the mundane things of his responsibilities, but also with making sure that the entire office had everything they needed. Most of the time that included unsolicited advice. He was the office counselor, psychic, conflict mediator (sometimes creator), gossiper, HR manual expert, and go-to person for a good laugh. He truly was a Jose-of-all-trades.

Tati succumbed to his heart and heart-related injuries very early this morning. He is survived by his mom, his step-dad and his dad, as well as his wife, his daughter and his daughter’s wife. All of whom have the impossible task of going through our remaining days with now only the memory of this incredibly loving man.

 

tati

 

I ain’t got no crystal balls

john-edwardI was driving somewhere in the Valley when I saw a billboard with John Edward’s face on it. You know, John Edward. That psychic that had that television show sometime over the last decade. He would assemble people in a room and start calling out random numbers and letters until a person (sucker) in the crowd made sense of his ramblings.

I can’t remember what happened to him. I think he was dogged by some scandal. Something about his ability. I think it started with the letter B and ended in shit.

Or maybe it’s real. What do I know? I’m an atheist that is afraid of ghosts.

That billboard was long behind me, but his name kept swirling in my head, John, Edward, John Edward, until I landed on the spirit of the Democratic Party’s past: John Edwards.

john-edwardsOh my God, John Edwards. He came back to me like an old nursery rhyme. His father worked at a mill, he put himself through law school, his hair was impeccable, he was John Kerry’s running mate, and then he ran for president. He stood out between Clinton and Obama as the only candidate to really talk about the struggle of the working poor and explain, in simple terms, the solution for helping them thrive.

But everything went to crap. He was dogged by some scandal. Something about his personal life. I think it started with the letter D and ended with a baby out of wedlock with a woman that was on payroll, while his wife was dying of cancer.

Or maybe that’s normal. What do I know? I’m a lesbian that has never been with a man with hair so irresistible.

Similar to the way the Republican party erased the entire presidency (and failed economic policy) of George W. Bush, the Democratic party expunged Edwards from existence, along with his legitimate platform on combating poverty.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone else that came after him repeated his words. But he was the only one among them who lived it. He was as authentic as his sex scandal, and as vain as he was magnanimous. His southern drawl was ever-present. It didn’t disappear at fundraisers on the west coast and re-emerge stronger during rallies in red states. He was him, flaws and all.

I understand that things were different back then. The country was exhausted of hearing gross stories about powerful men and their weak penises. That’s why the populous elected two wife-loving, monoga-men to the white house back-to-back.

But those days of oppression are over.

As a society, we put a middle finger in the air to all that evangelical pretentiousness and silly talk about family values and elected a thrice-married sexual assaulter who is very (small) handsy with one of his daughters. The prettier one, of course.

So this means that we can bring back John Edwards. After years of quietly helping poor people from his tiny law firm in small-town North Carolina, it’s time to dust off his gorgeous hair and set him loose.

Let the conversation return to what it’s like to live paycheck-to-paycheck or to have to send your children to terrible schools because you can’t afford the rent in the better districts or to be unemployed because you have to check a box that says you have been convicted, regardless if you paid your debt to society.

And let that conversation be led by the guy with two crystal balls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seventeen

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I’ve been staring at this photo for a while now. The way I would stare in a mirror while screaming Bloody Mary.

Who is that? And more importantly, whose pearls are those?

A twist of fate and a scheduling conflict will take me back to Miami next week – coinciding with my high school reunion. So, in an effort to mentally prepare for the terrible community play rendition of Hot Tub Time Machine that I’m about to headline, I rummaged through a box of mementos, read cringe-worthy letters and found this, my senior year portrait.

At first glance, I was reminded that while I was taking this picture, my boyfriend was sitting in the waiting room with the promise of reaching third base on the ride home. He was adorable, gentlemanly and sweet, but terribly flat chested and had a penis, which eventually caused our demise.

When I looked closer though, the me from 1996 had a prophetic message embedded in my eyebrows – one that only took twenty years of hindsight to actually see it. Unlike what I thought about myself at the time, I was pretty damn unhideous. I would even go as far to say that I was pretty cute. Yes it’s a cliche, teens and their self-esteem issues. But I’d truly look in the mirror and see an out-of-place monster. How terribly sad.

On the bright side, if I had that face today it would be riddled with HPV, so I guess it worked out.

The other non-hideous things about seventeen were the rest of the know-nothings that I befriended. The valedictorian. The nice guy. The Goody Two-Shoes. The bad ass. The comedian. The rebel. The weirdo. The rich girl. The super rich girl. (I went to private school.) The artist. The Goth. The drama queen. My secret girlfriend. They were glorious. Each one. Raging with hormones, broken out with acne and hiding torn hymens from Jesus. Together we made up a super diverse version of The Breakfast Club that could have been made for Telemundo after dark.

But that was then. Next week we will be reunited for an episode of Oprah’s Where Are They Now, where the impulse to undo our high school stereotypes will most likely lead to boring each other with talk of investment banking, bibs and breakfast nooks. But as much as my body recoils with the thought of being trapped in a boring conversation, my FOMO is too powerful not to be there. And I’m willing to bet that in the midst of polite conversation, I’ll see a glimmer of the shitheads we once were. And I’m also willing to put money on having to hold someone’s hair back at the end of the night.

It was Catholic school for Christ’s sake.