Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Folks to Remember During the Holidays

I'm always struck by the number of homeless people I see having to live on the streets in the winter because our cities don't have enough beds for them to sleep in in shelters and such. It's bad enough that in a society as affluent as ours that people don't have shelter at other times of the year, but during winter homelessness is especially tragic. Every year, San Francisco does a grisly count of the number of deaths of homeless people in the city, which often is more than 150. To put names and faces to this story, check out this article about 'sacred sleep' at St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin in SF.

This has been an especially cold winter, so please don't forget to give gifts--dollar bills or spare change, your leftover food (leave it on a garbage can and people will eat it), clothing, food and monetary donations, or even a gift of your time volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter--to the people who need them the most this holiday season. Here are a few places where you can give:

-The Coalition on Homelessness, a tireless voice for the homeless and publisher of the groundbreaking 'Street Sheet' newspaper which is sold by homeless vendors.

-The East Oakland Community Project helps homeless people and families "transition to wellbeing."

-Central City Hospitality House, an advocacy and social service agency working with homeless people in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.

-City of Oakland Hunger Program which distributes food to low-income Oakland residents.

So as you scurry about town trying to finish up your holiday shopping, don't forget to just acknowledge the homeless people you pass in the street, even if you can't give them any money. They are human beings just like the rest of us, and deserve our respect. That's the least we can do during this season of giving.


Monday, December 19, 2005

The Season of Lights (and Holiday Parties)

Or not. I love this time of year--holiday parties almost every night, which means free food and booze, sometimes music, and good schmoozing to be had by all. But a nasty cold early last week put me out of the running for many of the cool holiday parties that were buzzing around town. Sniff. But I'm still determined to have my fair share of holiday party fun, especially since December and January are officially the Months of the Year When Most of My Friends and Family Members Celebrate Their Birthdays (including me!). No less than a dozen (and I'm probably forgetting a few) folks in my world will be ringing in their next year on earth in the recent and upcoming weeks.

Last night, holiday celebration took the form of gastronomic nirvana as part of our joint birthday celebration(s). H. and I had the pleasure of being accompanied by N. and Vkdir to Paul K, a fantastic Hayes Valley restaurant on Gough that is now one of my new favorites. Fusion Mediterranean, I guess you could call it: subtle but memorable flavors of sumac (a Persian spice, I believe), pomegranate, chili harissa and medjool dates infused our dishes. They served thin circles of pita bread with baba ghannoush and hummus for the table. I was feeling like I needed some comfort food, so I got the grilled prime ribeye with chili harissa, which was scrumptious. We all sipped pinot noir, which was a little spicy and quite bright, a nice complement to each of our entrees. And to top it off, the prices aren't bad.

Then we went over to Sweet Inspiration in the Castro for dessert. I had my favorite, the coconut cake, which is super-decadent (especially since I'd already eaten a big slab of beef for dinner), but hey, you only celebrate birthdays once a year. (Well, for one month per year, at least--I figure having birthdays so close to Christmas and New Year's gives me and H. the right to party for as long as possible).

We had also gone to the McKay Foundation & FACT holiday party a couple weeks ago, which is always fun, partially because it's the only place I get to hear and dance to Surco Nuevo, one of my favorite salsa bands. They don't play much in the big salsa nightclubs in the Bay Area, because those gigs don't actually pay much, so once a year I get to groove to their music after sipping the best wine and food to be had at a holiday party. Not sure who caters that event, but they rock, lemme tell ya.

Tonite there's another little holiday party to attend, this time for the Agape Foundation, whose web site H. designed. They're a cool, progressive foundation, and Karen, their Executive Director, is a great person who I'm sure will throw a good shindig.

So even though I'm getting a little bit of a late start on the holiday-party circuit, I'm making up for lost time. I gots to--it's my obligation as a winter-baby Capricorn. I hope your winter's turning out as bright and full of festivity too.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Rest in Peace and Power: Richard Pryor and Stanley 'Tookie' Williams

I know these are late but still wanted to post them. I've felt the aura of death around me often lately. And although their deaths make me sad, I'm not discouraged, and I know that these men's spirits will give us strength from the afterlife.

Richard's obituary.

About Tookie. His memorial service will be held in Los Angeles, Cali on Dec. 20th. Details are on the web site.


Monday, December 12, 2005

The Final Hour

It's not too late to save a man's life--namely, Stanley 'Tookie' Williams, co-founder of the Crips, ex-gang-member turned children's book author and gang-truce advocate. I dread the dismay and disappointment and anger that folks in the 'hood who look up to Tookie as an inspiration to stay out tha game will feel if the State executes him tonite. You can go out to San Quentin and show your soildarity, but even better would be to fax, email or call the Governor's office to urge him to grant clemency to this reformed man, so that he can continue his work to bring peace to the war-torn streets right here in Ghettoland, U.S.A.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rest in Peace: Licerio 'Jun' Sendaydiego, Jr.

Yesterday my family buried my Tito Jun, who passed away earlier this week after a long struggle against cancer. His humor, kindness, smooth singing voice and smile will be missed by me and many others.

I hadn't seen my Tito Jun healthy in a long time, but I'll always have memories of him as a happy-go-lucky, kindhearted gentleman, the kind of man I like to think of as quintessentially Filipino. He loved to sing love songs and be sweet to his wife, but he loved to smoke and drink whiskey, too. He was loved by his children and extended family; I can't ever remember not liking him or not being glad to see him and my Tita Glo, his wife.

I find real comfort in funerals, viewings, wakes, rosaries--all the components that make up the Filipino grieving process. The viewing was especially emotional for me, because I got to see Titos and Titas and cousins that I hadn't seen in years (or ever), some since I was a little girl. I was happily surprised that they all remembered me, although it took a couple of them a few minutes to place who I was. "Tita Puring's daughter," they would tell each other, and then their faces would light up with recognition. It makes so much sense that, after my anti-family Thanksgiving and my recent ill feelings towards my family, my Tito Jun's funeral was the place where I found some healing. He was the kind of man who could bring people together. Even my mom wasn't mad at me anymore, either for missing Thanksgiving--how can you be mad at people at the funeral of someone you both love?

As I sat in the church during the funeral mass, I noticed that the crucifix was not the standard cross shape that most Catholic crucifixes come in, but a figure of Christ hung from a single arc of branch, his wrists tied to it grotesquely. As I sat there listening to the priest and contemplating the figure, I thought about my recent studies of Buddhism and Buddhist meditation, how many (mis)interpret the Buddha's teaching about suffering to mean, "All life is suffering," when I and many others do not believe that was the intention behind his words. I think his meaning was that, "Suffering is unavoidable" but that we canliberate ourselves from it by following the Middle Way. I found it ironic and a little sad to remember how Christians (or at least Catholics in particular) focus so much on the crucifixion and suffering of Christ, instead of on his own 'enlightment' or awakening (Christians call it resurrection) on the third day after his death.

One of the most touching moments at the viewing for me was when a short, Chinese-looking man, after staring intently at me for several minutes as I hugged some of my cousins, came up to me in the pew as I sat with H. He approached me with a quizzical look on his face, as if he vaguely recognized me but couldn't remember my name. I rose and said who I was, and his face lit up as he opened his arms wide to embrace me.

"I'm Roy," he said; he was Tito Jun's eldest son, whom I'd heard about but never met before, since he had been in the Philippines when I was a child, when Tito Jun immigrated here with his four youngest children. I embraced him back, feeling the old warmth of family washing over me, the beautiful feeling of knowing that somewhere, by someone, I am recognized and loved.

My friend M. just returned from a month-long trip to the Philippines--her first--and told me of how family she'd never met before embraced her so warmly there. She's encouraging me to take my own first-ever trip; it's something I've always wanted to do but am only feeling more reassured about now, after yesterday's experience.

It's good to know that, on some level, there is family out there, in the world, waiting to embrace you.


Meditation Practice Pays Off: I Am Yoda

Just received the meditation cushions I bought as my birthday gift to myself yesterday, and had my first sit on them last night. I'll also be heading to the people of color sit at the San Francisco Buddhist Center tomorrow.

Yoda and Buddha have a lot in common I think, besides, their names rhyme. And further, I've always maintained that Yoda is Filipino..."Judge me by my size, do you?" So this is especially gratifying.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Thanks again to Gura, or should I say Galadriel the Queen, for the link.