Saturday, April 25, 2020

What I Miss About My Pre-Covid-19 Life

I miss going to Sulphur Creek Nature Center with Miguelito.

I miss going to the farmers’ market as a family.

I miss our father/son grocery store shopping trips.

I miss going to parks and playgrounds with Miguelito.

I miss our libraries.

I miss going to the Castro Valley Library with Miguelito.

I miss seeing Miguelito and his cousin play together.

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Tango Doctor

At the foot of Montaigle Castle by Eric Huybrechts

There was once a young man who was dying and terrified of never waking to see his beautiful face in the mirror again. His wavy golden-brown hair was reminiscent of a lion’s mane though he lacked such kingly vigor. Instead, his fair skin was palish with a sickly tinge of yellow. Over a year’s time, the poor man had been afflicted with a mysterious ailment that left him more and more exhausted although he slept plentifully, did not suffer from hypothyroidism, ate a nutritious balance of food, exercised sound hygiene and was not clinically depressed. As the months passed, his spirits caved. His eyes developed a distant, far-off quality to them. It was from staring down Death, his loyal wife swore. A beautiful specimen herself, she accompanied him everywhere throughout that vexing, difficult time. When they first married years before, the man often marched home across the town’s cobblestone streets instead of waiting for the tram. But once he became sick for months on end, merely flipping off his bed sheets to trudge down the hall to the bathroom took every ounce of energy he could muster.

The man and his wife sought every trusted medical means to diagnose his malady. All of his bodily faculties seemed in good order: his lungs, heart, mind, and cardiovascular and digestive systems were normal for a man of his young age. They were confounded. On a lark he sought a psychotherapist to help him conclude that the symptoms were not psychosomatic, nor that he secretly wished to be ill so his wife could shower him with attention. His therapist assured the man that he had not subconsciously manifested his illness to sabotage his lucrative business. Quite the opposite, his therapist deduced.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Into the COVID-19 Fray: An Interview with an ER Nurse

Ebola test laboratory in Liberia, Image courtesy of UNMEER

This interview was recorded on the 03/20/2020 weekend.

JAV: How was your shift today?

NURSE: It almost felt more normal than I expected it to, I guess. There’s this combination of…and I feel bad saying this…ignorance, panic, and self-entitlement that we’re seeing that’s really difficult to deal with. But then, at the same time, we’re kind of used to dealing with this already. I think some of the staff, even among medical people, you’re getting some of that panic where people want all the [personal protective] gear even if they don’t need it to be in that room, or they’re a little hyper-paranoid. And there’s actually a lot of people calling in sick because they just don’t want to be around it. It’s a little crazy. We’re all at home being very careful about social distancing. Everybody is staying home and being very careful about not bringing germs home and all that and then at work all of us are super close together as if it was just any other day. It’s kind of weird.

JAV: How long have you worked as an ER nurse?

NURSE: I’ve worked down in the ER for nine years. I had previously worked in other units.

JAV: How do you think you ended up becoming an ER nurse?

NURSE: (laughs) Almost by accident! When I was a new grad I worked in medical oncology. I wanted to go back to school but the only position that allowed me the flexibility was a float nurse. Back then, I always said, I don’t want to work in the ER. It’s too chaotic. It seems crazy. I like things organized. I like to have my day and plan it but I had a friend at the hospital who kept telling me, come down and work with us…and I just had no interest. That seems like a mess.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


On the morning of February 28, 2016, I slipped out of bed and sauntered over to the living room since our apartment was unusually quiet. My wife, Maria, sat at the far end of the couch, her arms wrapped around her shins, her knees drawn into her chest. Her mouth was a tight line. The blinds were shut, casting our living room into shadow. It seemed as though she was trying to draw into herself. To hide within the darkness. Something was wrong. Very wrong. She was seven weeks pregnant with our first child.

I woke up and found blood on my underwear when I went to the bathroom, she told me.

I didn’t know how to react. This was all new to us. Maria had just told me she was pregnant three days before on the last day of my artist residency. But I had enough sense to know this didn’t sound good.

I remember the way she gazed at the wall—how still she was. As though she was frozen, or unwilling to move.

Shortly after, we passed through the security checkpoint at the hospital’s ER entrance. Maria’s contractions had sharpened. Sometimes it made her double over in pain. I stood by her side as she sat and told the intake nurse the reason for our visit. We then took a seat in the waiting room. Maria and I tucked our chins into our chests. I patted her arm. I was scared, but I tried to hide my fear with a mask of stoicism.

Before long, the intake nurse called us. I could feel my stomach clench. They triage patients at emergency rooms, attending first to those with the most urgent problems. We must have waited only five or so minutes—and we were called in before all the other folks who had already been waiting.

That’s when I realized how grave Maria’s bleeding was.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

My Top 10 Movie-Going Experiences

I don’t have many things to brag about my life, but one thing I can boast about is that I’ve seen a lot of good fucking films. In my late teens and early twenties—formative, formative years—I was blessed to have a couple of friends in my lifeless, pedestrian, suburban hometown of Fremont, CA who had wicked-good taste in films. They opened my impressionable eyes to a slew of gnarly movies. Before I could legally drink, I was an undergraduate film student at San Francisco State and pulling a Tarantino by working at a local video store (which back then was this corporation known as Blockbuster Video). During my two years of film studies—especially the first year—I saw (and slept!) through a parade of fantastic films during my 9 a.m. classes when my night-owl ass would stagger through the early morning hours to commute from my parents’ house to the fog-veiled westerly end of San Pancho.

In compiling this list, I was surprised that none of my all-time favorite movie-going experiences happened at the Embarcadero Center Cinema, the exquisite Castro Theatre (Eddie Muller’s annual Film Noir Festival is always fucking awesome), or Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. I’ve seen a lot of movies at these film houses, especially the Embarcadero Center Cinema, while I was a substandard film student.

This list was originally meant to be five deep with a few honorable mentions, but the longer I sat and rifled through my memories the more my honorable mention list ballooned (much like the budget of a James Cameron film).

But without further ado, here are the top ten I’ve been graced with.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Stroller Landmine

August 2018

It’s 6:35 p.m. Early for your bedtime, but you’re tired. You gave a big yawn while Mama was feeding you. You’re rubbing your eyes and acting sluggishly, so Mama tried to lull you to sleep by holding and rocking you on the bed while giving you lechita from a bottle but you stubbornly shook it off. She got frustrated. I offered to take you for a walk. After strapping you in the stroller, you and me head out the door.

It’s August so the sun is still bright. We circle the block around your abuelitos’ house but you keep sitting forward in your seat; I can tell by feeling the weight shift in the stroller, by peeking through the canopy’s ventilation window. I stop and kneel next to you. I look into your eyes and gently push you back and caress your forehead. Relax, I say to you in Spanish, and we continue on. Not a minute later, you begin to lean forward again, peering out at the suburban neighborhood. As we turn the corner back onto the street your abuelitos live on, I sigh with frustration.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

My Dying Wishes

Written April 3, 2005 (at age 25)

This should be pretty simple: if doctors—especially court-appointed ones (if it were ever to come to that)—find that I am cognizant and mentally capable of making rational decisions for myself, than allow me to make whatever decisions I want with my life. If I’m found to be in a state where I am not conscious and able to make coherent decisions, where my life can only be prolonged with the use of breathing or feeding machines and there is no chance of recovery, then I do not want to be kept alive. I strongly believe this is not true living, so I’d rather join the dead.

I am largely indifferent about my remains (because, you know, I’d be dead). Since my parents brought me into this world, they have every right to bury and mourn my death in whichever way they see fit. If my parents are not alive to make this decision, I give my sister, Mariana, the right to take care of my remains. If she is not available for this, then next in line would be my sister, Carmen. From there, fuck, let anyone who comes forward with the desire to take care of my carcass have the power (no necrophiliacs, though!)

Some tips, though, as to how I’d like my remains to be disposed of: