It’s Easy to Judge

In front of Paris

When I first moved to New York City, I started working in the Financial District. At the end of the day, on my way to the subway, people would stand on the street corners handing out little cards or flyers. These people mostly tried to get the attention of men. I’d catch a glimpse of the flyers and saw that they advertised gentlemen’s clubs. I wasn’t naive about New York, and I wasn’t surprised about the kind of effort that went into promoting that kind of business. However, I was bothered, and there were times that I wanted to knock the flyers from the hands of one of those people, but then I realized that if they scattered onto the sidewalks and streets that anyone could read the flyers. Children and women, decent men. While it’s true that there are corrupt children and unwholesome women, I still held onto my hope that innocence still roamed the streets. I wanted to preserve that as much as I could.

Last week Reilly and I went to Las Vegas to attend a friend’s wedding. It was  my first time to Sin City, and I was excited to let as much as possible stay in Vegas. We walked a lot and looked at the shops and lights. All along the Strip, people passed out flyers for gentlemen’s clubs and peep shows, almost like how it was done in New York. The one main difference is that the people got your attention by clapping the flyers  against their hands. I avoided eye contact, but hands stretched from all directions, and it turned into a pretty challenging obstacle course.

They annoyed me at first, but I looked at how many there were, and I wondered how they were getting paid. Even women passed out the flyers, and then I wondered if that was the only way they could support families. I wondered if they considered a better way, if they had a better way, if they even had a choice. I wondered if they were able to shut off their conscience, to ignore the images on the cards they handed out. Instead of being angry at what those people were doing, I was sad. It’s a shame that they have to do that at all. It’s unfortunate that they make it happen in Vegas. It’s a tragedy that they’ll probably have to stay there.

(I’ll write a more upbeat post about Vegas one day. This has been on my mind for a while, though.)

Dissection, Part 1

I’m somewhat a reactionary person. What’s on the surface sometimes has nothing to do with what’s just below the surface, which usually has a lot to do with what’s deeper.

This particular journey started a year and a half ago, when I had this reaction to some news I received.

It started to end a week and a half ago, when I arrived in Utah. Before I left Florida, I emailed my biological father, asking him what his plans are, and that I had an appointment to talk with an immigration lawyer on Tuesday, June 22.

When the plane landed in Salt Lake City, I texted Biodad, asking him if he was still in the country, and that if he didn’t respond to the text or my email within the next day I would cancel the appointment.

Within the next hour he texted back, saying that he was still in the country, and that he’d be moving back to the Philippines for good in December. He asked when a good time to call would be. I told him Saturday afternoon.

I was hopeful about not meeting with the lawyer.

The next day was Friday. I woke up early to meet with a friend on campus. Later that afternoon Biodad called, and I answered. He asked me if I would still meet with the lawyer and ask about how much the services would cost, and if they were too expensive, he’d go back to the Philippines.

Maybe I should back up a little bit.

A few months earlier, he asked me for a favor, and over the phone, he sounded pretty bashful. He knows I recently obtained American citizenship, and he wanted to know if I would do a paternity test with him so that he could use his blood relationship as grounds to apply for a green card.

He said he didn’t want it to be like he was using me.

He expressed absent-father guilt, saying if he could stay in the United States, he’d be able to spend time with me. He’d help me pay for school, he’d buy me this thing or that thing. He’d pay for the paternity test.

I told him I would think about it.

At the beginning of my New York/Florida trip, which was the beginning of May, I scheduled an appointment with an immigration lawyer. The consultation was free; it would be useful. I texted Biodad, but he did not respond.

So a week and a half ago, when we were talking on the phone, his quality time with me is suddenly conditional. Lawyers are expensive. Obtaining a green card is expensive.

His efforts to maintain contact have not been consistent. In the past year and a half, eight straight months lapsed without a single call or text.

Six months ago, after Christmas, he sent me a Christmas text. He called a few weeks later to explain his silence: his wife was visiting from the Philippines.

And last month? when I was debating to go forward with the lawyer and didn’t hear from him until a week and a half ago? One of his daughters was in town (somewhere in Alabama), pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl on May 15.

When people stop talking to me, I think either it’s because they’re trying not to lie to me outright, or they’ve abandoned me, stopped caring about me, somehow helped create the dark vacuum that I’ve been sucked into. This is a sick (unhealthy) way to react, I know, but I grew up in a very noncommunicative family. The wounds run deep.

I mean, of course life happens. People get absorbed, focused, busy. On a fundamental level, I understand that. But the reality of it is, when he doesn’t have time to talk to me because he has a wife – who is not my mother – visiting, and when he doesn’t respond to something he thought was important – AND that he INITIATED – because his daughter and brand new baby granddaughter are immediately present, his intentions weaken. I can no longer hold him to his word. His promises dissolve into nothing. He simply cannot divide his attention. He’s already let me down too many times to expect that. Another chance is out of the question.

And then – and THEN – he reminded me that last Sunday was Fathers’ Day. Then, just to be spiteful, I reminded him he forgot my birthday. He said that wouldn’t happen again.

I didn’t end up calling him on Fathers’ Day. I may not be a very good person sometimes or even a good daughter, but I am not his daughter, at least in the same sense that he is not my father.

Last Tuesday, I met with the lawyer, and she said some things that made a lot of sense and brought great clarity to the situation. She ended up saving me money and further grief. We shook hands, and I left her office. Before I could exit the building, sobs ambushed me, similar to how I reacted a year and a half ago. I stepped outside and took a deep breath, then I walked the four blocks in the bright sunshine to the bus stop.

This Summer’s Solstice Is My Soul’s Poultice

Bless this sunshine.

Fifteen hours of it yesterday, and I’m in a part of the world where I can enjoy it with the least amount of whining.  It surprises me just as much to find myself declaring Utah such a dandy place. The mountains are green with the slightest veinings of snow at their summits, pushing the clouds higher, clearing the sky.  The lows are in the 50s and the highs graze the 80s; the lack of humidity allows one to actually feel the temperature range and even the difference between standing in the shade and under the sun in the middle of the day. It’s neat.

I feel I can breathe.

Yesterday was also the first day of class for the summer term. I was up before the sunrise, just because I can’t seem not to sleep in. I prepared for the day, caught the bus, went to class, went for a run, took a shower, did my homework, wrote for a little bit, went to hang out with the church group at the bishop’s home in Pleasant Grove; we picked strawberries and watched chickens and enjoyed the summer evening air until 9:45, when the sun seemed reluctantly to set. I got home, then my day got even more interesting.

The night air was cool, but not bracing. That only meant getting out of the hot tub was that more refreshing. The time spent before and after that thermal dip sets the tone for my summer.

Oh man, does it ever.

I walked back to my apartment and toweled off and got dressed. I went to bed a little after midnight and ended up waking up at 2:45 this morning. My mind was racing, and I loved it. I finally settled down after an hour and woke up again at 6am, then my day began as usual.

It’s interesting how summer days unfold.

A little text from my phone, outbound: “It was nice spending some time face to face. My thumbs definitely appreciate the break. : )”

In response: “I feel we accomplished much more in the few minutes than days of thumb reps!”

I met with an immigration lawyer today about an immigration issue. The discussion boiled down to somebody sucking an egg. That somebody is neither I nor the lawyer.

Summer feels really good so far. Keep it coming.

Isn’t America Also About Second Chances?

Set my naturalization aside. That’s all fine and good; everything’s on schedule. Some unfortunate circumstances have come up for a fellow member of my ward, though. I believe our efforts can make a difference. Focus. Unite. This is critical.

Today at church we received this announcement on a flyer:

Our fellow ward member, Gustavo Aguilar, was detained by immigration agents on Tuesday despite the best efforts of his lawyer to keep him free. His situation is urgent – he could be deported at any time.

Jen [his wife] and Gustavo are fighting to keep him here by trying to get his pre-baptism drug conviction overturned. You can read details about this fight and and what they have done on their blog at:

At the suggestion of his lawyer, we are trying to get local politicians to call the Queens DA and express interest in Gustavo’s case and in a favorable outcome. While some politicians have said that they would call, none have done so yet, probably because they don’t see it as urgent or as important to very many of their constituents.

We would like to change their minds – to convince them that Gustavo’s case is worth their time and effort. To do so, we need your help.

Could you please place a call to the following politicians in the next few days and ask them to help? Gustavo could be deported almost at any time, it is important that these calls be made as soon as possible. Instructions on what to say follow this list.

City Council: Miguel Martinez
–917-521-1293 . 601 W 174th Street Ste 1A

NY Assembly: Adriano Espaillat
–212-544-2278 . 210 Sherman Ave, Ste A

NY State Sen: Eric T. Schneiderman
–212-928-5578 . 80 Bennett Ave., Ground

US Congress: Charles B. Rangel
–212-663-3900 . 163 W 125th St., Ste 737

Manhattan Borough Pres: Scott Stringer
212-669-8300 . 1 Center St. 19th Floor

1. Review the website above so you understand the situation.

2. Call the offices of at least one (if not all) of the above and ask to speak with a constituent  services representative.

3. Tell them you would like the politician’s support in the case of Gustavo Aguilar. We want the politician to call the Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown or Assistant DA Susan Sullivan and ask them to agree to the motion to vacate Gustavo’s conviction.

4. Mention your relationship to Jen and Gustavo, tell how much he would be mised if deported and how Gustavo is now the kind of citizen we need in the US and New York.

5. If they need further information about the case, refer them to Gustavo’s criminal lawyer, Labe Richman – 212-227-1914.

Gustavo is a very nice, friendly, funny, and kind man. He’s a hard worker. He’s loving and generous, and he takes nothing for granted. There is no one who wouldn’t benefit from having Gustavo as a friend. If it’s the Lord’s will he be deported, I can accept that, and it would be very sad, but I want to be able to say I did everything I could to help him. Would you help him, too?

We can do this.

Read the blog.

Make the calls. Tuesday, since tomorrow’s a holiday.

Pray like crazy.

Spread the word.