Godfather Alex Loza
I knew somehow, even before the news footage confirmed my prediction, that the little boy’s toy car would look exactly like the one we have here at home. Primary color plastic of red body, blue wheels and handle for pushing, goldenrod yellow hood. I imagined little Carlitos Nava riding in that same car. And he did until Monday afternoon when the violence of Oakland streets took his life.
I took M to 64th Ave and International this afternoon. We each carried a rosary. M insisted on seeing Carlitos’ photo so one of the men at the makeshift altarcito moved a giant teddy bear aside. In the photo, Carlitos is not smiling but his deep brown eyes peer out in wonderment. M’s chatter subsided. I placed my hands on her little shoulders and tried to think of a prayer. Instead I read the handwritten flyers announcing a weekend fundraiser for his family and his memorial service.
On the drive home, I watched my daughter through the rearview mirror. I have been hard on her lately. She is going to sleep very late this week: 11pm Monday, midnight last night. I speak to her as if she were an older child. My expectations for her behavior rival those I had for my high school students when I was an administrator. She is my almost-three-year-old but she is still my baby. I think about Carlitos’ mother and how she can’t ponder whether she is doing right by/for her child.
“Mommy, are you crying?”
“Why are you sad?”
“I’m sad for the baby.”
“Did they hurt your feelings?”
“No. But they hurt his mommy and his daddy. It’s not right.”
“No, it’s not right.”
What is right in these situations? I can hop back in my hybrid, back to the weeknight farmer’s market, back to my suburban neighborhood, where every evening, after dinner, it is safe to take my daughter around the block in her toy car. I have no answers, only emotions.
NOTE: There will be a carwash both Saturday and Sunday at the market at 64th and International to help raise funds for the Nava family. Viewing will be Monday, August 15th, 6 to 9pm, Clarence Cooper Mortuary, Fruitvale Ave, Oakland.
A former student of mine died today. It has moved me in ways I couldn’t have predicted, in ways I have yet to understand. He wasn’t a student I knew well or even one I liked very much. And yet I feel odd. As if the room is lopsided.
I had printed out a recipe for natural egg dyes. My daughter’s first Easter egg coloring. Why not be mindful of harmful dyes? Then I received the news, via email. So the recipe disappeared. I don’t know where it has gone.. I’ve searched my desk, my recycling bin, my book bag. Maybe someday I will find the printout and I will smile. Not today.
A few weeks ago, I was at my annual trip to a Catholic conference. I finally wrote down my list of 100 personal dreams. One of them was to blog again. I have so much to say. I am a mother, partner, daughter, friend, half-marathoner, teacher, former assistant principal. I was so ready to return to the written word, my old friend.
I met Don at the Endup several years ago. I don’t quite remember why or how. I think Housewife and I were carrying on as usual, walking the runway or dancing the Hustle or hooting and hollering for the house music. In any case, Don found me amusing, all 4’11” of grin and crazy dance moves. We became friends instantly, sharing a cocktail or beer over gossip. Don had a lovely voice, one he was too modest to show off very often, and he loved to dance. He had hung out at the Endup since the days of disco and he knew a good groove when he heard it. Like the many men and boys of the club scene, Don was a familiar face, someone I could trust to keep me from getting jostled on the dance floor.
During the dotcom upheaval of the late 90s, Don took a job in Germany. That summer, I journeyed there, crashing at Don’s place. It was my home base as I took the train to Belgium, France, Holland, and different cities in Germany. Together with Don, I partied at one of the best clubs I’ve ever experienced and went to my first rave. I learned a few words in German and learned to embrace traveling alone. Once Don returned to the States, I drew away from the clubs as I dove into straight girl singledom but Don would send me Christmas cards and tell me about the ongoing club scene.
Today, the DJ gave me the bad news that Don passed earlier this year from complications from pneumonia. I am sorry Don is no longer with us but I know he is on that dance floor in the sky, that he’s probably chuckling at someone’s silliness, that he is gracing another place with his affection and good nature.
God bless you, brother.
I learned a lot from Charlene Brown. I met her at Columbia University in July 2004. We were roommates while enjoying a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to study the Renaissance. We became friends right away. We shared a love of musicals and plays, art, good food, and the marvel that is New York City. We were also comrades, the only openly religious members of the summer teaching institute, and therefore supported one another when anti-religion ideas were put forth.I will never forget Charlene’s smile and her gentle manner. I am sad to learn she has lost her battle with cancer.
One of my fondest memories of that New York summer was rushing back to Morningside Heights in a rainstorm one night after watching a show. We were drenched but laughing all the while as we ducked into doorways and hopped puddles. Our shoes were damp for days.
I never kept my promise to visit Charlene in the Central Valley. We kept in touch via cards and emails. The last time we corresponded, she was hopeful about treatment and focused on her teaching. I am happy to learn she kept teaching history throughout her battle with her illness and that her funeral was a huge celebration of her career and life.
Now I know she’ll never miss a show and she will always lift a prayer.
10 Things I Hate About You wasn’t meant for an Academy Award. But to a young English teacher who wanted to instill a love of Shakespeare in her charges, it was a godsend. The 90s high school update of The Taming of the Shrew was an instant hit and remains a cult favorite.
It also introduced me to Heath Ledger. I liked him instantly. He had sparkling brown eyes that crinkled at the corners when he laughed, a sprinkling of freckles, a lanky frame, a devil may care energy. Even though it was a teen romantic comedy, he shone.
I followed Ledger’s career as he co starred in The Patriot, led the fluffy A Knight’s Tale, then really showed his acting chops in Monster’s Ball. My bro dismissed him as a pretty boy. Then he starred in Brokeback Mountain. And the world realized what I had known for years, that he could break our hearts as only a gifted actor can.
Heath Ledger is dead at 28. Accident or suicide, the facts are not available. But we have lost a great talent.