KonMari with Catholic Characteristics

Today was Tasks One and Two of my KonMari Festival.  Clothing and books. I got a jump start on papers, and if all goes right I might actually take care of papers tonight, which is Task Three.

So my Cowsin K was into KonMari back in Seattle, before I moved to California. I was intrigued enough to buy the book back then, but I wasn’t intrigued enough to actually read it. It sat in my kindle for four years.

Last month, my friend R started downsizing his life, preparing to move away and also take a vow of poverty, and from afar I saw him systematically squaring away his office and his apartment. I should also mention that he is a clean freak and a maniac. Anyway, he sold off, donated, recycled, gifted, sent home, and threw away most of his possessions weeks ago and drove off with just a suitcase in his trunk. What I noticed during the whole process is that he loved it; he did it joyfully, I think the activity actually calmed him.

In fact, I convinced him to help me pack up my classroom, which was a revelation. He suggested packing strategies, and crucially, he helped me think about what to throw away and what to take with me, listening carefully and affirming my decisions. This is exciting to me, because I stress out about packing. One time, 20 years ago, my sister let me sleep on the bean bag chair while she packed up my kitchen, knowing that I was worthless.

Anyway, I had an unpleasant “grind-it-out” attitude, while R was serene; he enjoys this work. As I said before, he is a maniac. He also made a smug comment that he didn’t read Marie Kondo and he doesn’t have to. Besides, her theories are based on Shintoism, and he can do it with a Catholic point of view. Regard each item as a blessing. Rather than asking if an item sparks joy, R asks if it brings him closer to God.

He bragged that he should write a book, or be a tidying consultant. I asked him if he’d like to write an article for this blog, and he sneered, “No,” disdainfully, and slowly turned his head to the side and play-acted vomiting in slow motion, audibly wretching.  Charming!

(Disclaimer: R did not, in actually, turn his head to the side and play-act vomiting. But the story is way better that way.)

I started watching some episodes of the Netflix series and taking mental notes about how it’s going to go. I reported to R that I was ready to convert to Shintoism. To his credit, he said he would support me.

Anyway, yesterday was the day I calendared to start with Task One: Clothing. Well, yesterday I blew it off. I took care of it this morning though, and the process was much faster than I thought; I’m sure I didn’t do it right. Still, I did pretty good.

I did try to follow a Catholic script, which I think R would appreciate. Rather than thanking items before discarding them, I thanked God for the blessing each item brought me. I haven’t figured out a way to work in Mary and the Saints, but I did deal with a little guilt. I recognized that some of my belongings had some original sin.

Anyway, the final score: I donated three bags of clothing, shoes, and towels to Martha’s Village and Kitchen, which is my donation center of choice, and to Goodwill, which is just closer.  I donated about ten books; but, truth be told, I have been loathe to accumulate books ever since I gave away hundreds of books before I moved to China in 2007.

So the t-shirts, I took a photo of them properly folded, and when I get to Seattle I will fold and file them properly. For right now, however, I put them in sardine mode so I can move. Underwear and socks: handled. A while ago I bought two dozen pairs of the same sock, and it’s the only sock I wear on all occasions, and since they all match, I don’t bother to pair them.  Shorts and pants are all sorted and I feel good about them.

Hanging clothes; I probably didn’t go at them hard enough, I still have too many. I can try again later.  One annoying thing: when I’m fatter, my neck measures 18.5, but since there was that period when I was losing weight I have a full set of work shirts that are 17.5 at the neck. For now, I’m keeping both sets of shirts. Obviously my goal is to transition to the smaller size full-time, but it’s not crucial at the moment; my next gig doesn’t have a necktie rule.

Next up:  Task Three: Papers.


Notes: Changing the Air

  • It’s currently 75º in the desert.  AC is off, doors and windows are wide open, ceiling fans are changing the air.  A neighbor walked by and saw me typing and said, “Hi, neighbor!” which surprised me. I thought she’d ignore me.  The high temp today will be 105º.
  • I got my phone screen repaired yesterday. Not my primary phone, an older phone that I plan to use in Hong Kong; I hope to drop a local SIM card in it and be super connected in a super connected city.  When I heard the news that Carrie Lam tabled the extradition proposal, I thought ok, the streets of Hong Kong will go back to normal for our visit. Oops, even more people have come out to demand her resignation. In any case I’m not nervous about massive protests while we go to visit. Even if they’re disruptive, we’re all going to learn a lot. I’m pretty fascinated how the official protest song is Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,  which was the Gospel Acclamation we used to sing at the UW Newman Center in the 90s.
  • LetGo‘ing my stuff is a weird experience. People are messaging me about my stuff, asking “what’s your lowest price?” No, people. No. If you want to haggle with me, you make an offer. If you’re not ready to make an offer, then shhhhh.
  • Today’s agenda: 9:15 workout, drop off some stuff at the donations center, drop off round two of postcards at the post office. When I get back, today will be day one of KonMari tidying:  Clothing. I can do it all in one day. Afterward, there are really no movies that I want to see, so maybe I’ll go bowling with a friend, or try to use up a gift card.
  • If I get all my KonMari‘ing done, Friday should be an LA day. Maybe I’ll try to go up on Thursday and crash with a friend.  We’ll see, I have to finish komono.
  • I shouldn’t be buying new stuff at the moment, but I bought some dollar store chanclas yesterday.

Disappointment, Jury Duty, and Las Vegas

Yesterday I woke up in the desert, too late to go to the 5am workout. I got dressed in slacks and an aloha shirt, as I had been advised to do for jury duty, and left the house for breakfast around 6:30.

b8bde4ae-49fd-4690-bdf7-7fa9879824fcI got to the cafe and ordered a small americano for here, and a lox bagel. The owner happily made my americano and then cheerfully told me, “I’ll only charge you for the americano, since my kitchen guy hasn’t arrived yet.”

I wish he had given me that information before he had made my americano, I would have made a different choice. At the very least, I wished he had made some sort of apology, because I was really disappointed about not getting that lox bagel. I sat on the patio and quickly drank that non-great coffee and fumed about the non-bagel, the non-apology, and the non-information.

58187043467__5fbd9207-2092-4ce9-805d-892863a205f4-1As I drove to the courthouse I looked at my St. Benedict bracelet and wondered if I should go to the 7:30am Spanish mass on the day that I start my road trip, and ask Fr. Guido to bless me before I go.

There is a Del Taco across the street from the courthouse. I parked and went inside. A homeless man asked me to buy him breakfast, so I ordered myself an egg and cheese burrito for myself, and a chicken quesadilla for my new friend. After I had paid, he asked if I had ordered him a drink, and I just said, “no,” and didn’t apologize.

img_2704I moved my car to the courthouse parking lot and got in the long line for courthouse security, which stretched around the corner, and started texting M. The line moved fast, and soon enough I was scanning my badge and finding a seat in the jury lounge. I saw two former students but didn’t say hello.  My name was not called for the first trial, so when they gave us a break, I moved my car to another spot in the same parking lot.


After the break, I returned to the jury room, and waited for the second round. This time they did call my name, and when it came time to discuss hardships, I felt annoyed with people who thought they were there to give a sob story. The judge just wanted people to say the words “financial hardship.” Just say those words! I didn’t mouth off though, because even I have to behave in a courtroom. The judge dismissed me after I said I was leading a study abroad to Hong Kong and then had a moving van scheduled.

img_2708-1So after a morning of mostly sitting on a couch and texting my friends, I was free. I treated myself to a cauliflower-crust pizza. T came over and checked in with me; it wasn’t goodbye though.

After that, I got in my car and drove four hours to Las Vegas. I was feeling sleepy on the drive, so I ate a bunch of junky snacks and sang karaoke at the top of my lungs, and then next thing I knew, I was here. I kissed my mama and pet the dogs and ate hot rice and cold banana blossoms, later there was bangus and kamatis. Went to bed early.

I woke up this morning in Las Vegas at 3:30 am, hungry. While I’m here I will not go to the gym, I will not KonMari my apartment, I will not go to the few desert restaurants and cafés that I have worn out over my three years in the desert. Family time, I guess.

On Wednesday, T will pass through Vegas on his way back to New England.  I’ll help him get a sandwich and buy a refrigerator magnet.


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The Measure of Whiteness

A couple of months ago, someone asked me how I have enjoyed the desert over my time here; and checked to see if I had done all the requisite desert activities; hiking, Joshua Tree, Salvation Mountain, Idyllwild…

I shifted in my seat, chuckling, and told him that Asian people don’t do any of those things. For the record, Asian people go to LA or San Diego for haircuts, grocery shopping, and Daiso. No, I told him, we depend on our white friends to take us to the places he mentioned… In fact, the only thing on that list I had done was Idyllwild, only the past weekend, and only because R took me.

He then joked that I was in good hands then, because you couldn’t get any whiter than R!

The comment made me uncomfortable, but what I did was smile and try to move on.

Later I told R about the situation; he chuckled about it and agreed, saying that he was, in fact, super white. I couldn’t smile and move on this time.

I don’t like it when white dudes rate each other’s whiteness. It’s a weird thing that majority people do, because they think about culture and ethnicity way, way less than those of us who have grown up as minorities.

Sometimes hearing white folks analysis of ethnicity is awkward; like letting a high school sophomore parallel park your car. Or like patiently listening to a fifth grader play Für Elise on the piano. We know it’s a big step for them, and we want to be encouraging, but if you ask us candidly, we are being patient. We are patiently waiting out the clumsiness.

I struggled for a while to figure out why it bothered me that one white guy was calling another white guy whiter. I wonder if somebody thinks of me as more or less Filipino American than my cousins (gross). I asked R if he would dare to rank the teachers in the Spanish department from most to least Mexican. The answer was no, he would not dare.

If R is more white than you, what does that make you? If you are less white than another white person, what are you more of? Can a white person’s whiteness be so small in measure that they are no longer white? What would you call a white person without whiteness?

I think this goes back to majority mentality. Majority people (of any society) do not think of culture and ethnicity as core to their identity; they think that deep down, they are just normal people, and that culture and ethnicity are added features. To them, I’m the same dish as they are, and my filipinity is some extra sauce, served on the side, a superficial difference.

That is a mentality that oppresses other people. It means that Asians cannot warm up their food in the lunch room. It means that Black people don’t get to wear their hair the way it grows naturally. It means that Mexicans expect that the cops will come to their birthday party with noise complaints. It means that Middle Eastern Americans regardless of religion should arrive at the airport early, factoring in extra time for a TSA inspection.

The majority culture ruthlessly enforces their idea of normal. The rest of us supposedly have constitutional rights, but not in these situations. Our food smells bad to them. Our hair is not professional to them. Our celebrations sound like trouble to them. We look like terrorists to them.

To them, going to Joshua Tree is perfectly normal. I’ve never been. Not even R wanted to take me with him.

I posed the question of comparative whiteness on Facebook and asked my friends to weigh in. There were a lot of good responses. The one that stood out the most was not necessarily about ethnicity: someone was tearing down R to make himself look better. Sure, it was intended as some light hearted teasing, but the impact was “yuck.”

First of all, you don’t talk about my friend.

Second, how are you going to use your own ethnicity to insult someone else? The Wonder bread is calling the mayonnaise “white.”

Driving up to Idyllwild, eating some hamburgers when you get there, and listening to some Bonnie Raitt music doesn’t oppress me. Making casual, light hearted jokes about who is whiter doesn’t oppress me either, but wow, it has bothered me for months, now.

Third and finally, you don’t talk about my friend.

So listen, I’ve told this story to several people to get their take on it. The majority of my white male friends who have heard the story chuckle about the situation, and add their own lighthearted take to it; they buy into and participate in the idea of the measure of whiteness.

My friends that are not white men; brown people and also white women, are across the board appalled, and immediately so. My white women friends are very quick to seize on the power dynamic of the situation; the fact that the “someone” in this story was actually our white supervisor, talking to one employee about the whiteness of another employee.

Anyway, none of the white men in this story are racists or white supremecists. None of them oppress me or intend to offend me. All of the white men in this story are people that I respect. I’m not mad at any of them.

I only suggest that we see something they don’t see. The questionable nature of measure of whiteness is in their cultural blind spot. If you’re not careful about your blind spots, you might cut someone off, or get in a wreck. Arrogant people deny that their blind spot exists. Those of us who are concerned with the safety and well being of everybody on the road acknowledge that we have blind spots. We trust people with different points of view to let us know if we are safe to maneuver. We learn to check in the mirror. We learn to look over our shoulders, to see our blind spots with our own eyes.

Our Time Now

There are a lot of special events happening and I haven’t been quick enough to blog them.

Friday was the last final.  I wasn’t a 監考人 exam proctor, so I worked in my classroom with my colleagues all morning. After that was over, I went to lunch with R at El Rodeo, which is my favorite Mexican restaurant in the desert by far.  We got a table on the sidewalk and ordered an appetizer AND entrees. Then we went to get frozen yogurt, and then to a local bar for a quiet drink and the desert version of the GFS. B was pumped when I texted him that we were carrying on the tradition. Next year Blanchet and Prep end on the same day, so maybe we’ll be able to carry on the tradition in Seattle.

After that, R had a thing, so I went and saw Rocketman by myself. I identify a lot with Elton John even though I am obviously not an excessively decadent rock star. “When are you going to hug me?” is a good freaking question.  Finally, we all need a friend like Bernie Taupin.

On Saturday morning I went to IW coffee for breakfast and then Ernest Coffee to grade final exams. I was planning on a lazy day of lazy grading but then R showed up and told me to join him and A to see Booksmart. My first instinct was to stick with the lazy grading/lazy day plan, but I realized that if I turned on the turbo jets, I could have it all; I could grade the stack of papers AND go to a raunchy teen coming of age buddy movie with two good friends.

So I sat there and graded like the fate of humanity was at stake. It was mentally exhausting but R was there sitting on my right, and I felt like lazy grading/lazy day would be some depressing garbage.  I finished grading the compositions with just enough time to choke down a beyond burger and join them at the movie theater.  Actually I got there first.

When I put the clip on my stack of grading, I turned and looked R in the eye; he took out his ear bud; and I told him deadass, “I am going to need you to sit next to me every time I grade papers for the rest of my career.”  He agreed, of course, which was the right thing to say.

We went and saw the movie, it was funny and as raunchy as I thought it would be. Funny. Of course R clutched his pearls afterwards but I think he does that for effect. Also I don’t think he researches movies as much as I do.

After that I got a 45 minute foot massage and then putzed around and went to sleep.

camphoto_1804928587Sunday morning I met R for mass at St. Francis; it was the Feast of the Ascension; a nice model for a joy-filled goodbye. We went to breakfast at Shields Date Garden Café, which was a much nicer experience than I might have thought. You know, there are a few nice places in this valley, under the right circumstances: when the weather is not too hot, when there’s not a lot of pressure at work, when you have money in the bank, and when you can spend time with people you enjoy.

img_2493Our breakfasts at the café got us free admission to the garden walk, which depicts the life of Christ in sculpture. We walked through the tour backwards, starting at the Ascension and backwards through Christ’s life until the Nativity.  At the beginning we were pretty focused on the cheesy “Precious Moments” aspect of the presentation, but by the end it was such a nice day that it didn’t really matter, to me at least.

I went home after that to get ready for the big despedida. My banana lumpia turned out to be a disaster this time, they didn’t brown before the bananas exploded. The result was that I served less than brown lumpia. They were gross.

As I was rolling them, I watched Always Be My Maybe, a predictable romcom that was a love letter to the Bay Area, complete with nerd rap. It was a nice thing to watch while rolling lumpia.

I wonder if my white friends understand that my experience of Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles is like that movie: mostly brown people.  White folks are people I meet at work mostly.  For my white coworkers, I think the opposite is true; their lives are mostly white, and they meet brown people at work. Anyway, just an observation; I do cherish the white friends who have become part of my life.

I showed up to the despedida with two boxes of soap and body butter to give away, and a bowl of bad lumpia. I was a half hour late and the first one there. We passed around 10-day old baby Camila, and passed around my phone to take pictures. We sang along to Whitney Houston songs on YouTube; I doled out soap and body butter.  We ate snacks and drank dranks. There were some tearful goodbyes.


An Evening in Palm Springs

During finals week, we don’t start until 9am, so I always bake a loaf of bread to bring to the Designated Grading Sanctuary (DGS), which happens to be my classroom.  I turn on some music, put out some fresh bread, and people come by and grade papers in a relaxed atmosphere.

I showed up at 7am with my fresh loaf of bread, and then graded papers until 9am, when I had to 監考 proctor an exam. After that, it was back to the DGS (my classroom) to grade. I graded most of the day, with one short break to pick up a pizza for the gang.

I stayed and graded my exams until 4pm, then I ran home to get ready for a big night in Palm Springs. R parked at my place and we carpooled to the Palm Springs Art Museum, which was free admission tonight. Inside, we met up with L&E, and then we walked through the museum exhibits, sometimes clowning on the art.  It was fun.

Then we had dinner at the Juniper Table. We were the only customers, and it was nice to sit on the plaza patio and watch the rock stacking artist rope in passers by.  I had an impossible burger and a salad. The fries there are way better than the salad.

Afterward, we walked through the street fair, and then went for a drink at a Polynesian stereotype bar called Tonga Hut. I wondered what my Tongan friends from St. George Parish would think of the place!  Anyway, we had a round of drinks and played Chinese Checkers.

Tomorrow is the last day of finals week. Since I don’t have to 監考 proctor a final exam, it’s a grading day for me. I’m looking forward to a quiet drink afterwards.

Saturday, the following day, will be a grading day as well.