Not so Fictional Fiction: Letting Go – Part 1

30 Nov

I’m nauseous. On the entire drive over I wonder to myself “am I really doing this? I mean, like for real real?” I pretend to be focusing on the GPS, instructing Bryan that there is a turn coming up really soon on the left into the little dirt road. “Uh…I think we’re going to turn here…but I’m not sure. Keep watching the road and be careful” I worriedly yell, as if we were in a new land when in actuality we are just on the other side of the island on a beautiful sunny morning. I’m distracted from the road because I’m trying to determine what an appropriate way to chicken out of this whole situation might look like. I paint the scenario of Bryan taking a dramatically sharp turn into the right shoulder of the road, putting the car on park, taking a deep breath, choosing his words in his head and slowly but pointedly saying “look, I know you had your heart set on skydiving for your birthday, but it’s just not safe, and I cannot let you do it” as he stares down into the steering wheel. He can’t stare at me on the face because he doesn’t want to see the disappointment on my face. “Well, if it bothers you that much…I guess I could research the safety a little more” I would say, concerned over his mental state. We’d drive nearby to a Mexican restaurant and have margaritas as we nibbled on Ceviche. “I was going to jump. I was basically on the plane, ready to go, but Bryan seemed like he was going to lose it, so I decided to put him ahead of my own needs” I would casually tell people when they asked me if I jumped. “I will jump, I just have to make sure that it’s not going to hurt anyone.” In actuality, he seems kind of giddy at the thought of me jumping out of plane. When I energetically ask him to join me, he looks straight ahead, allows an excited yet slightly evil laugh and says “no.”

If Bryan were to jump I would feel better. I would feel better because I would know for a fact that someone on that plane would be more scared than me. I’m much more of a daredevil than he. Well, I’m really less of a daredevil and more a showoff. “Try this live oyster, it’ll taste good – here, watch, I can do it.” “Come on, let’s go on that rollercoaster, it’s not that big of a fall, it’s only 90 degrees.” “I really don’t think having another drink will hurt, I’ve had like 2 more than you.” Come to think of it, maybe I’m more of an ass rather than a showoff. Either way, it’s easier for me to pretend to be brave when someone is more scared than I am.

It does not help that Crissy and Liana are jumping too. On the day I was grandstanding on twitter about how I would celebrate my birthday by skydiving and lamenting that no one would join me, Crissy, nearly instantly, tweeted to the world that she’d join me. Nonchalantly she tweeted “@pharoe I’ll go with you. What day?”, as if jumping out of a plane was as ordinary of an activity as going to see the new Muppets movie playing at the multiplex behind Costco. A few weeks later, as my birthday approached, she asked if I had made reservations. A few days later she asked me what time our reservations were. A few hours later she informed me Todd would join us as well. To her, the jumping was a done deal, we just needed to iron over the details. I never bothered to tell her “@CrispyTeriyaki uh…I think I was kidding. I’m actually afraid of heights.” It was too late now. After all, once tweeted it can’t be taken back. So, I logged on to the Pacific Skydiving website, made the reservation, clicked “send”, and that was that. Now…I…Just…Have….To….Not…Throw…Up…or hit a bird on my way down.

Those were my two actual fears: throwing up as I jumped and chocking on my own vomit or hitting a bird mid air freefalling at 100 mph. Either way, I imaged a big mess as I tumbled to the ground. “So how did he die?” they would ask. “Oh, he hit one of those endangered Hawaiian birds on his way down from the plane. Poor bird, there are only 80 of them in captivity” someone would solemnly answer as they read the story out loud to a co-worker from the local paper during lunch. Filled with anxiety over vomit that will lodge in my throat or birds that would pierce mu chest, I did what any logical person would do, I pointed my browser to Google and typed “can you die from hitting a bird while skydiving?” Turns out that bird vs. skydiver collisions are quite rare. Birds fly at a certain altitude. By the time the skydiver intrudes their airspace he/she has already deployed his/her parachute. At that point, if you hit a bird, it might be bothered, but neither of you will probably die nor tumble to the ground. Of course, I’m sure the size of the bird and its mood on that day will impact the outcome of the exchange.

As long as I was on Google, I thought to myself, why don’t I do a bit more research into the safety of skydiving? In retrospect, searching for “skydiving accidents” was probably not the best way to start a search into the safety record of the sport of skydiving. Overall, reading about skydiving accidents the day before you are to jump from a plane is a bad idea. I did learn a lot, though. Statistically, skydiving is basically safer than taking a bath. However, while I must admit that every once in a while I do get afraid about the whole “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…and I’m in the tub!” scenario, a death associated with skydiving seems to have that je nais se quoi when compared to other deaths. I read countless stories about freak accidents of mid-air collisions with other skydivers, a freak story of how a person actually slipped out of his harness. More specifically, I read about each and every single accident that had taken place with people who had taken off from the same airfield I was taking off in the morning. One website tried to ease my fears by assuring me that most deaths associated with new skydivers had to do with plan crashes, not anything associated with the jump itself. Great.

Game day.

To Be Continued….

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Fruit

30 Nov

Originally Written June 8, 2004

Looking into the Dixie© plastic container filled with small neat chunks of cantaloupe my roommate prepared, I try to remember why it is that I don’t like chopped pieces of fruit. There’s something that feels right when you peal a banana with your own hands, or even stuffing your face with slices of watermelon rather than cut pieces. Suddenly a flashback to downtown Tepic, in Mexico. The vendors around lunchtime would come out with sandwiches, tacos, but there was always an overabundance of fruit sellers. You could buy oranges, apples, kiwis, sweesops, nanchis as a dessert, even make it your whole meal, or least something to tie you over while you shopped for new shoes. Always two types of fruit, one in slices or whole, and one chopped up in translucent plastic cups.

The fruits in cups were flavored with salt, lemon, and chili powder. It was a deeper taste than that of the fruit itself, more grown up. You ate the squares of fruit with a toothpick so you wouldn’t get any chili on your hands, maybe to not risk pain and embarrassment if it were to contaminate your eye. Ah, but it lacked the excitement of biting into a slice of large fruit. Watermelon & cantaloupe were always in large slices that you’d hold with pink square napkins. As you bit into the fruit small squirts of juice would trickle down your chin and hand and, if you were like me, you’d lick your hand savoring each sweet drop.

Now, I stare at these chucks of cantaloupe. Where is the excitement of making sure you don’t drip juice on the ground? Where is the freshness felt around your lips as you wrap them around a slice of fresh, cool fruit? It doesn’t taste as sweet when it fits neatly into your mouth. It doesn’t even have the flavoring of lemon, salt, and chili powder.

My childhood might be gone, Mexico but a distant memory, but hell, I can still eat fruit any way I like. Tomorrow morning I’m going to go to the store, buy myself a new cantaloupe, cut it into large slices, and wraps my lips around it’s cold, sweet flesh. As small as it might be, it’ll be something to make me smile.

Not so Fictional Fiction: Lobotomies

30 Nov

Originally Written July 10, 2004

I wanted to be defiant. While the instructor gave us regurgitated facts on the cerebral hemispheres, which he called a “lesson”, I was secretly reading the ending of my book “Puerto Rican Meadows”. My opened biopsychology book provided a pleasant shield which protected my secret actions from view. The Puerto Rican protagonist had just given a heartbreaking audition to get in to the posh art school, which her family was too poor to afford. Had she impressed the judges she would get a full tuition scholarship. Had she not, she would return to her cockroach infested apartment with her only parent, in Queens, and lived the rest of her years in misery. It was a cliffhanger fit for a Movie of the Week on Lifetime. The story suddenly jolted years ahead, with the little Puerto Rican’s graduation with honors from that posh school. I felt like yelling “You Go Girl!” but people had already started to notice I was not paying attention to class when I gasped a little during a particular touching part of the book, which happened to coincide with the instructor mentioning lobotomies. The emotion was too much for me to bear, and the trapped words in my throat needed a way to get out. I held back as much as I could and then, without notice, tears started to crowd the corners of my eyes. Panicking I looked up to see if anyone was paying attention to me, and starring straight into my face was the instructor with a horrified look on his face as if saying “you…you’re not paying attention to me at all…you’re a farce Pedro Haro!”. I froze for a couple of seconds, tears streaming down my eyes, then instinctively screamed a girly “ouch!”. Everyone turned around. As I ran out of the room I said “I poked my eye.”

Not So Fictional Fiction: Soiled

30 Nov

Originally Written September 4, 2011

The air was a bit thick with heat and hints of fumes from the newly painted walls.As I watched Dame Edna on the large sized television, I noticed Ken, one of my best friends, has fallen asleep on the couch out of early morning exhaustion.Often I find myself wondering why I become friends with certain people. Is it their personality?Is it what they bring out in me?Is it their energy, their talents, their interests, their perceptions?What draws me to certain individuals and repels me from others?

Dame Edna continued joking with her guests in her contrived soprano voice when Ken alleged “Pedro, they’re taking our soil away”.Ken is part native Hawaiian and his roommate is a strong scholar of the Hawaiian culture.Through the years Native Hawaiians have had their lands taken away through force, through laws, through trickery, through every conceivable method.Walmart being built in the middle of Ala Moana is yet another example of how the cold hand of globalization grips the Hawaiian islands while squeezing any sort of authenticity out of its shores . “They’re taking away our soil”, that is what made me friends with this man.Someone waking up with a social commentary is not something I was used to.

Although I was blown away with his ability to abridge a social problem into a simple phrase I looked at him, smiled, and asked “can you elaborate”.He stared at me for a second, as if confused with my question and answered “they’re building a wall around our property, but the first step is to dig up all this extra dirt and take it away.Finally they came to take all that extra soil away.”I simply exclaimed “oh”.

Pain

15 Nov

Originally written April 11, 2004

Sy made the observation that I am a martyr, a self imposed one.I agree.For what, or for whom, are to be discovered.Pain and sacrifice make me happy.I would chose the path less traveled not so much because it’s a different route as much as because it has thorns that will rip apart my very soul and will make me feel as if the journey was more satisfying.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a sin I’m trying to repay for.There’s this ultimate guilt that resides within the smallest part of my heart, laced with acid, constantly burning a hole.I am unhappy if someone accepts me, it makes me believe there’s something wrong with their perception of who I am.I don’t crave what I cannot have, I crave that which will hurt me.

I can’t remember how long this has been going on, but it’s been the epic tale of my life.I can’t allow myself to be happy, and what fucking escapes is “why”.But there’s a reason, something, someone, some source, a point when I decided that happiness was dead, and for the rest of my life was to be lived in pain, or die searching for it.There are these flashbacks, but no complete memory…

I don’t know why, but when I first heard the phrase “I can’t allow myself to laugh, because if I laugh it feels like I’m abandoning a part of myself” (or something like it) in that play, it dawned on me that’s exactly how I feel, how I operate.

Maybe I should become a priest.

A Drinking Story

12 Apr

A while back I got into fight after I had been drinking. It shook me up pretty badly because it had some strong repercussions. I stopped drinking for a year and took a real close look at my actions and choices relating to drinking.

I wasn’t an alcoholic, and I didn’t feel I needed to quit drinking altogether. Rather I was a high-risk drinker. When I drank it was with the intent to get drunk, binged in a short amount of time, and would do it in social situations so I could “let go”. It became clear to me that I was doing this because most of the time I was uncomfortable in social situations and drinking made me more likable, less uptight, and gave me an excuse the next day if I made an ass of myself. It was not that hard to change my drinking habits after seeing that this was not the person I wanted to be.

There is still one thing that bothers me.  Friends would encourage drinking, and thought it was funny when I did, even to really dangerous levels. We weren’t particularly young either, I didn’t start drinking until about 22 or 23, and at the time I would hang around people who were in their 30’s.  I particularly remember one night when a good friend said to me after singing a karaoke song “wow, you must not have drank yet, you sound a lot better when you drink.” I always took that to heart because I loved to sing but was so self-conscious about it. Whenever I did karaoke I felt uncomfortable if I wasn’t drinking because I thought I sucked.

Two things that I took out looking at this: learn to be comfortable in social situations without drinking or just don’t go to things you don’t feel uncomfortable at, and never tell a friend they are more fun after drinking. I remember this guy sitting next to me in school at Manoa Gardens and his friend came by and said “wow, it’s like 7pm and you’re not drunk, what’s up with that?” The guy explained to his friend that he had to study, and the friend just said “that’s so unlike you.” Instead of saying “that’s cool, good for you” that friend chose to make the person feel even more inadequate. Good job.

It’s scary how the smallest things can have an impact on our lives.

Hawaii Loves Selena

23 Mar
At the Selena Vive Concert

Me at the Selena Vive Concert, Houston TX, 2005

There is a story that has now become a legend in Latino households. Selena, the Mexican-American singer, was to give her first press conference in Mexico. Having grown in the United State exclusively speaking English, she had not yet mastered Spanish. Although she was a multi-platinum Spanish singing icon to Latinos by now, she had learned most of her songs phonetically and only as an adult was actively learning the native tongue of her ancestors. Her record label was nervous the Mexican press would eat her alive if her Spanish faltered even a little for they are notoriously mean to artists from the US who try to invade Mexico. Selena, however, had it under her control. She came into the press conference and greeted each person in the room, be it a camera man or a reporter, with a hug and a kiss. She chatted with them, made them feel human, and by the time she sat down to give her interview the people in the room felt like they were talking to their best friend and not just another celebrity.

The Mexican newspapers the next day crowed Selena “An artist of the people.” This story made me think of how much Selena would have loved Hawaii. We hug and kiss here all the time, we talk to each other like family, and embrace our similarities. However, growing up Mexican in the little town of Lahaina I really didn’t have many people who I felt had the same experiences as me. I really hated being Mexican, I wanted to be something else, Filipino, Chinese, anything but Mexican. We didn’t fit, at least I didn’t think so. Our food was different, our language recognized by no one. My name was never pronounced right, except in my own home. Then came 1995, when Selena was shot to death by her fan club president. The movie starring Jennifer Lopez came a few years later. It brought national attention to something I was so familiar with, and even in Lahaina people began to talk about Selena, play her music, and appreciate her style.

In a way because she was embraced I realized that I was embraceable too. Til that time I had been trying to hide so much my Mexican-ness that it provided people who disliked me ammo to break me down. They’d tease me about my family being immigrants, and would pronounce my name wrong(er), not to mention would say things like “Hey Pedro, Do you Quiero Taco Bell?”. But the Selena movie and her albums did pretty well in Hawaii. What was different between me and Selena? The difference was that Selena was proud of her Mexican roots, and accentuated her Mexican attributes. She didn’t deny she was who she was and didn’t deny she was also American, a Texas girl. Could I be that also? Be local while being international? Could I be a walking dichotomy, embracing the language of my home while becoming eloquent in English ? Why not. Other ethnic groups in Hawaii have done it for centuries, now it was time for this local Mexican kid to join in the melting pot..

I was an impressionable teenager during that time and I thank Selena for showing me a positive multi-ethnic role model. A few years later a local group called Milo Shade did a local version of her bouncy hit Bidi Bidi Bom Bom. There was no doubt in my mind now that Selena would have loved Hawaii, and Hawaii would have loved Selena, had she only lived long enough to visit. .

This year marked the 10th anniversary of her death. The Latino world still loves and misses Selena very much, me included. I was able to attend a huge concert honoring her life earlier this month, held in Houston, aired live through Spanish networks, which now has become the most watched Spanish show ever. I bought some markers and a red poster board. I’m no artist so my sign was clear and simple: Hawaii Loves Selena. .

Thanks Selena, for helping a skinny Mexican kid from Hawaii fit in a little more.