Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Baseball Games

Disclaimer: this is not for some shy ears, maybe ...

You gotta understand I am not from around these parts. Around the parts I am from they don’t have baseball. So, I am trying to be a “good American”, now that at least on paper I am one, although not sure how “good”, and learn this game which is bragging to be “America’s pastime”, or “America’s sport”.
For the life of me, I know not why they say that about baseball, either! I’ve always thought cheerleading would be it: enjoyed, it seems, equally by men and women, for different reasons, and although I have not done the research, I can swear it’s an American “genuine” invention, but anyways, let’s not digress!
So, recently, I have been trying to go to real life baseball games, watch them on TV, I have even considered buying a book on baseball, to learn it, as a true American. I am not sure I am getting the game totally, yet, but I enjoy seeing it live!
How can you not, though, pray tell?! What’s there in a stadium that you would hate?! Nothing!! The beer, the food, the people watching, the cheers, the music, and oh, yeah, the game, too make for such an entertaining environment, quite hard to beat elsewhere!
I will keep you posted on my progress understanding the game, if interested, but for right now, I noted some of the conversations my friends and I can carry on at a game. Just made me smile re-reading my old notes, and just thought I’d share. These are real life ones, of which the “undersigned” has been part. And one of my wonderful friends is the accomplice:

“Oh, I like my wiener loaded!”

“Can you hold my nuts so I can take care of my wiener?”

“Ma’am, I didn’t want the small one! I need the foot long, please! Thanks.”

“Where can I put my nuts?”
“Just sit them in my lap.”
“Don’t let them get too warm now!”

“Do you want a bite (of a pretzel)?”
“No, thanks, I don’t like the thick ones. I like the skinny, small ones.”
“Really??????”- my friend says with bulging eyes, in disbelief…

Oh, the memories …

Sunday, June 25, 2006

June 7, 2006

“Give us your tired, your weak
And we will make them strong
Bring us your far off song
And we will sing along
Leave us your broken dreams
We’ll give them time to mend
There’s still a lot of love
Living in the Promiseland


So they came with such a sad eye
Nameless woman, faceless child
Like a bad dream
Till there was no room at all
No place no place to run
And no place to fall

Give us your daily bread
We have no shoes to wear
No place to call our home
Only this cross to bear
We are the multitudes
Lend us a helping hand
Is there no love anymore
Living in the Promiseland

There is a winding road
Across the shifting sand
And room for everyone
Living in the Promiseland”

What do you say when you manage to see your life long dream with your own eyes?! Do you cry? Scream? Yell? Party? Are matter of fact, because you’ve kind of expected it?! Or you’re humble and so amazed (and paranoid) that you don’t want your luck to turn and be miserable from now on?! It’s definitely breathless and speechless is how you feel. You’d like to say thank you and kiss someone’s hand, and you’re not sure who that person is? People that you’ve come across along the way? Your parents for having you? God? The American Government? Your own government? And these questions are still unanswered…

On June 7th, I was sworn in as an American citizen. I was told that “I have met all the conditions to have every right that an American born citizen has… but ONE…”. I would not be able to ever be the President of this country…And thus my dream of 31 years, and my family’s life-long dream was to become reality…

While waiting for the oath, a million things crossed my mind, some of which I wanted to make a record of … So, here they are …

Long winters in Romania, with icy windows, ice so thick you could not see through the windows into the streets; cold sheets at night, so cold you felt a layer of your skin peeled right off when you slept into the bed… Maia warming the sheets up with the blow dryer… Secret police knocking on your door at 2 AM, taking your dad away… He returns later the next day with two black eyes, and mom tells you some people in the street attacked him… Dad hiding dead chickens from work in the spare wheel compartment in the trunk of the family car, so he can feed us … other children at school telling you their families can only afford meat for Christmas… The feeling of guilt … The shame when you were fortunate enough to know the taste of oranges one day a year, and others didn’t know what that fruit felt like … Indoctrination class, memorizing the Congress’s laws, which were unchanged, always; the fear of death if you missed one… a 25 W bulb in every room…Secret police confiscating the occasional 40 W bulb… “Stealing from the people”… No hot water in the winter… No running water during the day in the summer …”stealing from the people”…

Summer breaks in the mountains…untouched by communism…wild, and free…But hungry and dirty. No running water at all… Trips to the stream to bring buckets of water…
Shhtt…Don’t tell anyone you celebrate Christmas, or Easter! Oh, Easter is the worst! You tell people you never go to church. Ever. Although the communion tastes soo good! Shhht…Whisper… Even the walls can turn you in… Can they hear your heart beat? Is that a sin against the people, too?!

Mom telling you the “teachers are right”… Dad telling you “America is the answer”… Bicu telling you, when you’re 10: “Run, A! Run away… Learn to swim, cross the Danube and go to America. This country doesn’t deserve you. Do WHATEVER comes your way… Steal, lie, kill if you have to… but LEAVE. Be an American one day! You’re too good for this country “…Confusion… But what about mom and dad? What about Andy and Maia?!

Learning to live with no feelings, and cold… Mindful of what you say, to whom you’re saying it…Living in your head … 2 Hrs of TV a day… 4 on Sundays and Saturdays…Half of an hour movies once a week on TV… 6 day working week… Driving your cars only two weekends a month… No more coupons for gas, none for flour, or oil…We’ll wait till next month…One pair of new pants a year… One pair of shoes … Feeling guilty of outgrowing the clothes…No money…
You learn about Scarlet O’Hara and you hear yourself saying: “If I have to steal, lie, cheat, kill…I swear… I’ll do anything, but I will never be hungry again”… - paraphrase…

The Revolution…More confusion…but freedom too…Too old to let go of the dream…Too young to make any decisions on your own… Still keeping the dream … when the cold winter strikes and the heat fails to come; and the hot water … When you have to bribe for bread and water, again… No more communism…Just the side effects…More lying, and cheating, and hurtful people…
Corruption…No more stealing from the people; just from one another …

And then, the LIGHT! The chance you’re given. Passion for the English language, and the one thing you hold dear to your heart: you know this passion WILL set you free! The end is near… Then you get a letter from quite a stranger at that time … You know nothing of him, but he holds a hand out; you grab hold to it, with all your might. You fall in love with the man who rescues you from this all… He abuses you. You still love him! Nothing is worse, nothing can ever be worse that what’s behind you… Lost childhood; and teenage-hood… Maybe you have a better chance as a 20-some year old! Maybe … Hoping …Loving…Giving … Giving up… But the bridge was crossed, so now, you wait, and pray. Pray that this strange land that has been so welcoming and fortunate for so many millions of people, over so many hundreds of years will accept yet ONE more person. JUST one. YOU! And you hope…Every prayer every night, every candle you light up in church; you pray! And the smoke goes up to Heaven, you hope, with your prayer …
You visit Ellis Island in New York, and you’re numb! You hear the steps of confused millions like you, opening their hungry but oh, so hopeful eyes, onto the New World. You can smell their dirt, their sweat; you can hear their hearts speeding up…it’s your heart too. You know…you KNOW how THAT felt! Visitors around you have no clue…And you’re so emotion stricken you can’t speak to tell them… You cry when you see the Statue of Liberty and you have no clue what to tell your husband why you’re crying …

You eat your first Thanksgiving meal, and you hope one day you’ll eat it as “one of them”; “one of the true Americans”, that is …Turkey tastes different in America. For immigrants like me, it will always taste like freedom!

And above it all, you see your dad! Scared and panicked: panicked that he might not feed you tomorrow, if the cops find the chicken in the trunk, and put him away; scared he might not come back from the 2AM rendezvous’s , one day… Your mom is silent. “Better believe the teachers”… And you see your parents, again, at the airport, 8 years ago, bidding good bye to their first born, and they know it’s for good! She didn’t have to learn how to swim. This generous man has sent a letter, and another generous man gave her a visa, and she’s legally flying towards freedom… And they know they raised her to do whatever it takes to fight for her dream…and she will not disappoint… They will age and they will cry every day, but she will have a better life…No more lies…. Bribes… no more cold winters… no more no running water days for their child… or their grandchildren… They bid her good bye, and they cry…Their eyes empty…Their love gone … All their work of a lifetime, gone, on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, en route to Atlanta, Georgia, the United Stated of America; Atlanta-home of Scarlet O’Hara… And I ran with that hope! And that dream, and the love for my parents, and for freedom got me to the INS office in Charlotte on June 7, 2006 … And I said my oath with determination and fear…and awe … and trembling … It felt good like a sin… Should freedom be a sin?!

Like many millions out there, throughout the centuries, I grew up to think that America is the end of all pain and suffering; the end of a poor and unjust life. And I tell you, this dream might have been real for the people of the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries, and it is still alive today! America has done the job it’s been doing for centuries, of sheltering the lost wanderers of the world that are running from their countries like from a burning building! It can’t get any worse than that! So, you jump!

And you leave your loved ones behind, and you hope for the best! For them and for you… And when they don’t follow, you still hope for the best for them…And you cry … and you hope they jump too…one day…A part of your heart stays behind… But what’s left of you has escaped, and will be looking for a new life … Incomplete and scarred, you try to start over; and America gives you the balm, to mend your wounds… And you smile through tears again…

I have a picture I took on Ellis Island, that I will want to be buried with, I hope. It reads: “Island of hope/ Island of Tears”…This year, on July 4th, my first Independence Day as an official citizen of the free world, I will think of this picture and of what America has been for me… A true island of hope and tears …

“I have a dream, a fantasy
To help me through reality
And my destination makes it worth the while
Pushing through the darkness still another mile”

Sunday, June 18, 2006


" 'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone."

(Can you guess the movie?!)

We all wish we had dreams with bleeding Indians in them. But they’re not dreams. They’re real, and they hurt!

“HE lives on Love Street
Lingers long on Love Street
HE has a house and garden.
I would like to see what happens …”

I followed you… Why? … ‘Cause you’re the one…

“This world is a road to power and nothing besides …” – remember that next time you’re tempted to say “yes!”…

“Indians said the first Shaman invented sex; they called him “the one who makes you crazy…”.

“All poems have wolves in them; all but one; the most beautiful one of all” – where is my beautiful poem?! Did I catch a draft?!

Lately… “I got stuck on a chick”, he’d say, and little would he know that she’d got stuck on him, too…

The “doors of perception” seem to finally be “cleansed”, after 31 years of searching, and hoping and hating and loving, of disappointments and of abuse. So, … let everything appear “as it is: infinite”. I am ready… finally … I think… Thanks, William Blake! Thank you, Sir.

“Enclose me in your gentle rain” … and don’t let go…

The key word is MORE. Always more … more … more … We’re only human …

“He touched her thigh and Death smiled”; she flexed her thigh and he smiled.

“The Universe is functioning perfectly, but I’m still completely locked within myself…” – when will the lock fall, and the labels will be posted?! When is the freedom coming? Do we know? Soon? Now? Ever?

I hate death, but sometimes “life hurts more” … And sometimes, life doesn’t hurt at all…

Does marriage really have to be about “fighting or f^cking”? About “side choosing”?! “Show me the way…and don’t ask why…”

“People are strange… When you’re a stranger … Faces look ugly… When you’re alone…No one remembers your name… When you’re strange…” – remember that it’s JUST a name…and sometimes, not even remembered …

When we least expect it, we see the bleeding Indians in the crowd … reminding us… that life’s short…Too short …

What would you tell God if you had a phone where you could talk to Him? Directly… Anything?! I would be speechless…

Do you hurt?

It hurts when there is no touch in sight …

The house of love is missing its spy…

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A New Joint In Town

I am not a picky customer. I guess, as you can see from my WalMart rant, I do little for comfort, when it comes to commercial service… I am easy to please! But there are some things that disappoint even low maintenance, low expectations me!!! …
A group of friends of mine decided to check out the new joint in town, Rum Runners. I had no expectations of the place whatsoever. I need to remind you: I am not from around these parts, so I know nothing of rum, and who drinks it and where, nor about dueling pianos and all that “cosmopolitan” stuff! So, I went with an open mind (and somewhat wallet, too), to this new place, downtown Greensboro, in the Kress building.
Coming at the door and learning that the downstairs club is called “Inferno” made it sound pretty cheesy, since the place almost across the street (also a club) is called “Heaven” and is at the top floor … but I am not picky. I came there for … Run Runners and the pianos, not the Inferno…
The service seemed slow from the get-go, but I thought I’d be forgiving: this is their opening night, they’re still figuring out what sections are serviced by whom and how fast, and the waiters/ waitresses themselves are probably still shy, on their first job in their first summer break ever, as a college student to be … maybe?! So, I was listening to the music, and being patient, and forgiving, too …
That gave me a ton of time on my hands… I started (over)analyzing the décor: like many buildings downtown, the Kress, is also a historic building: incredibly tall ceilings and carved, arched walls are outlining the inside of the open space. And within the enclosing, a décor of beach straw huts and columns fill in the void… Palm trees murals and decorations adorn the white walls. My first instinct, trying to decide whether to have my eyes linger on the classic walls or on the Jimmy Buffett-like scenery, was: “this is cheesy”. The straw and the palms just did not mesh in with the classy walls and architecture.
The pianos were incredibly loud and the resonance in the overly tall hall was not the best one can ask for … Someone needs to work on their sound system, if they’re going to be a “live entertainment” place, I thought. Resounding in the void of the white walls was the various sounds of music that ranged anywhere from The Animals, and Creedence to Johnny Cash and Bon Jovi! I thought to myself: confusing! – I was not sure what the “genre” would be in this environment; if there should be one …
When we finally got our friends together and we got a waitress, we found out that although their “frozen drinks” menu was 2 full pages of complicated descriptions of various concoctions, they did not have any frozen drinks available that night. I am thinking: on your opening night?? A “beach bar”? No frozen drinks? – now, that’s a let down!!! They did have the “Rum Runner”, and one of my friends did get that. Thank God, they at least got their “signature drink”, right?! We all ordered beer, otherwise … Or water, of course.
When it came time to order the food, we also found out that the only fish dish on the menu, the “Sandy beach”, I believe, was not available, either. Again: disappointment: no fish food, in a “beach-looking” bar?! I was beginning to doubt them here!
Oh, and the surprises kept coming: our main course (or at least one of the two, because we didn’t get them at the same time) came before our appetizer, well, WAY before our appetizer. And my friend, who was lucky enough to get his Rum Runner, had his order (an individual pizza) brought when most of us finished paying for the whole damage … and he was starved and drooling, watching all of us devouring our foods. At some point, we were also offered a whole set of salads of all sorts of flavors, without a single one of us ordering any… And one of the couples had their ticket incredibly mixed with people from across the table’s orders in between, although it should have been pretty simple for them: one appetizer, one Margarita, and one beer! … We were so confused when we left, we were not sure what was worse: the music that was too loud, the waitress who was lost, or the chef who was definitely not ready for a whole season of cooking, and could not tell the difference between a salad and a burger?!
The food was pretty tasty, once it came out, but boy, did you have to learn patience in the two hours you were there, to enjoy it!
I have seen places scrambling for smoothness on their “grand opening” night, but none quite so lost as Rum Runners… It was a tad surprising, to say the least, and be polite, even for a Third World gal, that’s really, not that picky! But I’ll probably go back, if the mood for “iffy”-ness and loud music will return any time soon.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Sh^tty Day … Sorta …

It started with a migraine… So strong, so ravishing and disabling … my head weighed 100 lbs out of my entire body weight of 98 lbs and I could not muster the strength to lift it off my pillow… I could not open my eyes, nor move my head…Light was evil! Noise was worse! With all the strength I gathered up, I called in sick! And fell asleep instantly! It was 5.30 AM…
At 7.30 my boss decides to call me from his home, to tell me someone from the office needs computer help; he is on call, you see, and he calls “the specialists” when he doesn’t know how to attend to an emergency… I called the person in need, walked her through several steps, and she was fine and grateful, 5 minutes later… By that time, I was wide awake and decided I will go in after all, albeit late … The migraine had eased up on me, too … It was now reduced to a headache – lingering still .
The day turned out to be easy at the office: not many emergencies, plenty of time for my headache to cool off … It was still there, in the back of my brain and eyes, but not as strong as it started at 5.30 AM!
I even found time for lunch: I got into my car, with no definite direction; I was telling myself: “OK, Alina, think! What are your taste buds screaming for right now?!” … After a couple of blocks, I knew they were craving Indian food… I turned abruptly to the left, and headed to my favorite Indian place in town… The buffet was only $6, and the richness of taste was just what the doctor ordered for my crappy mood and my headache! And indeed, the diverse flavors, the colors, the music, and the prompt service hit a spot! I left the Indian place refreshed as if after 10 catnaps!
I was refreshed and happy once again! My headache was a thing of the past and my newly found flavors made me smile … I am very much a “taste” person! Not texture, at all…And when I eat something as rich and complex as Indian (or any kind of Oriental, really) food, my entire being is opened up fully to the possibilities and fullness that all senses of the world have to offer! It’s like soaking in the most perfect and most comfortable bubble bath, for some!
So, I returned to work, thinking: “Wow, I could be home now, sleeping, not enjoying any of this if I had decided to call in sick, after all…”
And things were to get better … In the afternoon, my friend (who insisted he is NOT a sushi lover at all, far from it, actually!!!) e-mailed me, and all of a sudden decided to humor me and try sushi, but he made me promise we will go to a place that has “normal food” (i.e.: fried or steamed rice with “dead” meat, like chicken and beef!), and we did go to my favorite sushi place, that has “normal” Japanese food as well as the best sushi in town! Another taste extravaganza! Another explosion of pleasure, and lavishness of tastes! - almost paradisiacal!
After the sweet ever so slight buzz of 2 beers and a chat-full evening with my friend, full of laughter and happy times, the times that will build up lasting memories, I was headed home …Tired and happy … Smiling and fulfilled … My day turned out not that bad, after all … :-)
I guess the morale is: give yourself another chance: amazing things might happen, when you turn spontaneously on the road to lunch or when a crazy friend decides to please your tastes… Just let yourself be open to ideas, and impromptu invitations … You never quite know … what the next turn might bring, or the next phone call… or e-mail… Be open!