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Wednesday, August 20th, 2008
12:01 am
some incredible moments of late. i feel so calm.

last night, talked for hours with tim on our roof. it was almost as if we were high or drunk, but we were neither. we talked about life, fate, religion, philosophy, the past, the future. it was wonderful. and it made me realize once again that sometimes i overvalue fleeting connections i feel with people. in other words, i had had a similar conversation with egil one of the last nights i saw him, and it was moving and wonderful. and then yesterday night, i found myself having a similarly engrossing conversation with someone else. i guess im realizing that i am the constant, and the more confident im getting in what i need, respect, want, the more ill be finding these conversations around me, etc. tim for instance is another person who, like me, is interested in and has pursued different types of things (music and now education). it's basically the path im headed down.

case in point- today i had the most remarkable episode/interaction with one of our youth ambassadors at work. she was really upset about something and was essentially morally/philosophically against completing an assignment. this is an incredibly intelligent high-school kid who was grappling with rather deep issues (her family situation is a total wreck--- father has been arrested for drugs, lots of siblings to take care of etc). her gripe wasn't the result of laziness; it was more about not feeling remotely fulfilled by structured/mandated assignments. in fact, she termed it as a bit of a personal sacrifice everytime she completes one. she said she feels like a performing monkey. i was so fascinated.

anyway, it was strange. i sat down with her and talked. laura, chris and marisa had tried to talk to her earlier, but it hadn't worked (although im sure marisa would have gotten through to her with enough time--she was just in a rush to lead the rest of the kids somewhere. laura on the other hand would have failed miserably). things just came out of me... all the right things, in fact. i was honest and commanding and articulate and sort of "wise." it was really weird and surprising. and she came around, which was even more amazing. by the end of our half hour chat, she sat down and wrote it all out. i didn't sugarcoat anything for her. life is full of things that feel like personal sacrifices (to what we are, what we believe in), but i asked her whether she could connect this assignment to serving a larger purpose, and whether she could live with serving that larger purpose even if she feels like she is undermining her personal beliefs a little bit. whether her sacrifice can provide a larger pay-off. her thought process was very daria-esque, in fact. i told her how i hate structure and rules, but i can live with working at Coro (or any organization) if I sense the mission of the org is worth my time, worth my investment. I told her about this guy i know who is going to be the father of a kid at age 23, and who now says that this "situation" will give him a sense of purpose in life--- not because he necessarily believes it, but because he knows he HAS to believe it in order to continue to live this reality he's created/found himself in. and i tried to tell her that there are the two sides to every coin--- the while she may feel entirely unfulfilled by writing this essay or presenting to people, its an opportunity for her to transmit her ideas to a larger audience--- a chance to fulfill them. especially because she is so bright. it's the "selfless" yang to her more "self-serving" yin. and it is also a chance to serve the future her by documenting an experience that otherwise would be lost in time and memory.

and somehow, it got through to her. i guess i could have told her that she'll learn to love these assignments, and really find value in them. but that just didn't really feel honest. she may or she may not. i guess i wanted her to be able to see the bigger picture. maybe because i feel like i understand her perspective all too well, because i feel as if ive often been there. her type of personality needs to see how things connect. being told to do something can never be enough of a reason to do anything.

but this conversation helped enlighten a couple things for me. 1) i guess i am making progress; in baby steps in a way, sure, but i certainly feel much more secure in myself than i have in years and years. i know it is a very VERY fragile balance i have going on right now, but i am proud. i am learning to tame my mind, to train it to react more calmly and peacefully. in fact, during this entire conversation, i was in the moment.. PRESENT. i wasn't thinking ahead or thinking to other stuff. i was literally right there in front of her. i can't tell you how RARE that feeling has been for me in my life. it just isn't something that comes naturally. in fact, the entire past 24-42 hours has been this way. i walked home from work a day ago and felt suddenly possessed to cook dinner for my friends, called tim up and invited him over, and then spent a good part of the night just comfortably being me and talking to him in the moonlight about random shit like how i come up to the roof to recharge my moonstone. i guess my goal is to really kill this self-conscious tendency i have so deeply embedded within me. it's going to be a MASSIVE and LONG battle, but at least im committed to it?
2) in that moment, i was suddenly more than a sister, i was half mother, half educator/mentor. i guess i would say that i was definitely more on the mentor side, which was also incredibly refreshing. i wasn't being sweet and pacifying, as i usually am in my sisterly/maternal mode. i was being "real" and i could feel the respect for it. it's hard to describe that feeling too. i felt more distant, more erect, but therefore more compelling to someone like her. i don't know
3) i realized that i can be meant for education and leadership after all. i mean, i know that i can be a "leader" but i haven't quite worked out the situations where i have exercised effective leadership. when i took a "leadership styles" quiz at Coro once, i was unbelievably dismayed that i was stuck in the "counselor" bit of the spectrum. in fact, i was pretty ashamed and pissed off at myself. i didn't want to be a counselor-type leader, or so much of one, because in my mind, it felt too soft, too door-mat-ish. but then yesterday's conversation was a prime example of that values of that type of leadership style. it IS a strength of mine. i can talk to people to turn them around. my empathetic/intuitive bones allow me to understand how other people think and posit why they may have come to the conclusions they've come to and then get them to talk about it. and i also realize that i can and DO exercise other styles of leadership. I am somewhere between "persuader" and "counselor." i could be trainer and teach. Going into education down the line doesn't feel quite so ridiculous anymore.
4) the end goal, post-music performance years, is to work in arts education, but with this mentorship element really built-in. we shall see how that manifests itself.

it all comes back to the confidence bit. the past day or so, i haven't second guessed anything. or when i have, it was glaringly apparent (versus "normal" or something i wouldn't even notice). ive been going with the flow in a pretty unbelievable way (for me). i wonder how long i can keep it going.

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Monday, July 21st, 2008
2:22 pm - don't let things get so heavy
this is from May 2006:

1st May, 2006. 3:30 am.

i want to get over joel. i do. it's the right thing to do, and in all other ways, these feelings will produce nothing anyway.

still though, im finding it so difficult for some reason... difficult to just let it go (surprise, surprise).

im not sure why i even keep thinking of him. why every time i wake up, even if he has NOTHING to do with anything, the thought of him will float and settle into my mind. sometimes i wonder why i am like this at all. i wouldn't be surprised of course if Ma was similar when she was young, before she had to force herself to abandon some of her fantasies. i guess that is what it is. i miss the fantasy. i miss the prospect of happiness that the fantasy brought. i am already nostalgic for the memory of us sitting on lehman lawn talking in the broad sunlight, among the flowers and the petals we were throwing at each other, sharing things about ourselves that we don't necessarily offer to everyone we befriend. it was the tease of a mutual connection that would never go beyond that. i hate the fact that when i walk away from him, even now, i catch him from the corner of my eye looking back at me.

and the most annoying thing is that i am not attracted to him because he is unavailable. i like him because i like him. because it is so thrilling to talk to him, to hear about what he studies and is interested in, to have him listen to me and actually respond to the things i say. because he is dorky, but still commanding. because he is a good person. and god, this would NOT have gotten quite so out of hand if he hadn't reciprocated anything. with ross (and many previous crushes), despite the hookup, i made a good deal of other stuff up that kept me in the loop of obsession. but with joel, ive tried at great lengths to stop the obsession from happening, but HE helped me onto that path. he was the one who called me all the time, and then stopped calling after his girlfriend met me.

god. practically a married guy. it just isn't fair. part of me is happy to at least have met him, to have him in my life in some capacity; the other part is afraid that ill just dig a deeper hole for myself.and anyway, things have changed between us. it's not as...tender...as before. im trying to put a positive spin on it though... that at least with every crush, i get closer to what it is that i want. at least in this case, because it was something mutual, at least now i know im not chasing a ghost. it exists somewhere, and maybe one day, ill find it and it'll actually be meant to be. maybe next time.

being a hopeless romantic is exhausting. thinking about this shit is DRAINING. i just want to stop. i just need to give it a break now. all of it.

and it's true. this romantic mindset keeps me continually looking outward, instead of inward, to what i have. what i am truly lucky and grateful to have--ethan. it may not be what ive imagined, but the reason ive stayed in it is because it is in so many ways SO CLOSE to everything ive ever wanted.

it's really time to give up the search and instead, look to myself and to the blessings in my life, instead of hoping for every next new person to "save" me. i can save myself. i have been for so long. just pull yourself out of this endless cycle, and you will be okay. you will move forward. and realize that giving up the search for a bit will not only restore my own spiritual, mental and emotional energy, but perhaps allow things to find me for a change. joel did find me, and so will others. it will all be okay somehow.

happiness is in the little things. it is in how ethan loves me. in how i deeply cherish my friends. in how cute my parents are. in how ill be in aus soon with some of the sweetest people in the world. it is in the little things that make you smile day to day. and although joel made me smile, brought warmth and excitement into my life, it wasn't meant to be. but that does not mean that i can't cherish the memory, and the luck i found in our crossing paths at all. just take the good from every situation and move along. remember to look for the good.

most importantly, don't lose sight of the view.

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Monday, June 23rd, 2008
1:50 pm
Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
-The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Thursday, June 12th, 2008
2:05 pm - martha plimpton
**What constitutes as a bad performance in your mind? Do you believe the audience is aware when you are not on top of your game? — Lisa

Actors are often convinced, because our minds are very tiny and can hold very little in the way of rational thought once we've memorized all those lines (joke), that any given audience on any given night can tell when we are having an "off" night. I for one am absolutely positive of this. This is why I don't like to know when someone I know is in the house watching. I prefer to think of the audience as a single living organism with which I am sharing a singular, never-to-be-repeated experience. As soon as I start to think of them as individuals, a terrible process of transference begins and I can hear the screaming of the inner critic lambasting me at every turn of my wrist and every poorly-placed breath.

Then, I begin to have a "bad show" which, as far as anyone else can tell, is no better or worse than any other show. It's all in the mind, unnless you're in a terrible flop, in which case the inner critic takes a nap, having little to contribute in the face of such overwhelming objective failure.

**What single thing that you have done to advance your career in theater did you the most good? — Ed Marod

For the most part, I choose to do what I hope will afford the biggest challenge, the most excitement with the niftiest collaborators from whom I can learn. I've found over the course of a lot of years and a lot of ups and downs that this approach to life in general is the healthiest for me, and actually begets work more often than the alternative. If I'm enjoying myself, I find my opportunities for more fun become greater.

In the long run, mistakes in the theater are an asset. A life and a career in the theater, I think, require a certain willingness to be adventurous and to err. So, making decisions based on what will "advance your career" is probably the quickest way to become despairing and jobless. Anyway, that's what agents are for.

**Choose a favorite character from your acting portfolio and describe the "eureka!" moments, or key bits of work that helped you find that character which illuminates something about your acting process. — Duncan Thistlethwaite

This is a hard question to answer with any sort of brevity. So I'll give one story and hope it's not too over-long.

Rehearsing "Hedda Gabler" with Doug Hughes was a great life-altering experience for me. We did it twice, at Long Wharf and at Steppenwolf, in a shared production. One night, during a scene in which all the characters but one are onstage drinking claret or some such thing, I was standing there in my gorgeous gown designed by Cathy Zuber on that stunning set by Neil Patel, with these incredible actors from Steppenwolf, including Tim Hopper and Tom Irwin, and I was so enjoying the show that night, just kind of doing it without thinking too much or planning ahead, when all of a sudden, in a terrifying flash, I realized what we were doing: standing there in weird outfits with weird make-up on, holding these tiny wine glasses like so, and saying these strange words to each other while hundreds of people sat in the dark watching us do this crazy, crazy thing.

It was like I had entered a vortex in which any suggestion of sanity was completely out of the question. All attempts to rationalize this experience were doomed. I began to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, or at my own ridiculousness. Either way, that's when I started to love my job. I can only describe the moment as un-selfconscious self-awareness.

During that time I think I learned how to accept and enjoy the absurdity of my job while taking it actually much more seriously, if that makes any sense. For me, that sort of captures what is most wonderful about really great work on stage, or of any kind. It's absurd and foolish, and breaks your heart to look at it. Everything that moves me has this at its core.

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Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
5:09 pm
Like a cat in heat stuck in a moving car
A scary conversation,
Shut my eyes, can't find the brake
What if they say that you're a climber?

Naturally i'm worried if i do it alone
Who really cares cuz it's your life
You never know, it could be great
Take a chance cuz you might grow

Take a chance you stupid Ho

Like an echo pedal, you're repeating yourself
You know it all by heart
Why are you standing in one place?
Born to blossom, bloom to perish

Your moment will run out
Cuz of your sex chromosome
I know it's so messed up how our society all thinks (for sure)
Life is short, you're capable

what you waiting for????

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
11:35 pm
i saw matt dillon on the street today. we actually locked eyes. i had that happen with chris noth too. locking eyes with a celebrity makes you feel so hot, haha. especially when he's hot. i will entirely disregard the fact that you lock eyes with tons of strangers in new york on a daily basis. ill pretend instead that it was because i am intriguing lol

yay new york. i kind of wish now that i had told him that i loved in crash, cuz i really did. the more i think about it, the more i think that movie was pretty f-ing brilliant. i know some pretentious people called it pretentious or a film that tried too hard, but now that i live in a neighborhood where issues of race and class are palpable to me more than ever before in my life (growing up in a middle class town, going to college with rich preppies, does not give you any semblance of that certain reality, regardless of how much one reads or tries to grasp secondhand), i appreciate what that film tried to accomplish.


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Friday, April 4th, 2008
4:24 pm
life is funny. even though i am severely confused and insecure and flailing at the moment, or so it feels a lot of the time, it's these moments.. these little things that happen... the people you suddenly find in your life that amaze and excite and inspire you.. make it all worthwhile. make you sit and marvel about life and fate and the journey.

[it's funny. policemen seem to have a thematic positive presence in my life]

Let it go
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know
The hardest part is over
Let it in
Let your clarity define you
In the end
You will only just remember how it feels

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours
These small hours
Still remain

Let it slide
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine,
Till you feel it all around you
And I don't mind
If it's me you need to turn to
We'll get by
It's the heart that really matters in the end

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These small hours
Still remain

All of my regret
Will wash away somehow
But I cannot forget
the way I feel right now

In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Yeah, these twisted turns of fate
Time falls away
Yeah, but these small hours,
These small hours
Still remain

Yeah, oh they still remain
These little wonders
All these twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These little wonders
Still remain

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Thursday, March 20th, 2008
12:57 am
"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

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Monday, March 10th, 2008
5:40 pm
eliot spitzer


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Thursday, February 7th, 2008
4:16 pm
i wanted to write this a day or two ago, but i guess the sentiment still sort of remains, regardless of the fact that my head wants to combust from sinus pressure. i am content and have faith. i feel like myself again.

so the other day was the giants parade down here near the World Trade Center (near where I work). and it was one of the days where.. i dont know... i just felt so close to everyone, to strangers. i wanted to just go up to people and hug them or kiss them. it was such an odd inclination, but i can't deny it.

on the way home from work, i was sitting on the 4 train taking it up to Mannes at 79th St for my opera workshop. there was a man on the train busy playing a pretty awesome electric guitar (obviously not plugged in). the guitar was too nice for him to be your "average bum." At first it was loud and I wasn't paying much attention since I had my ipod on. but then i heard snippets of things he was saying: "this one goes out to...that white chick. the white chick right in front of me with beautiful blonde hair" and then he'd proceed to play and sing "my girl." and then he'd finish that and say, "okay and now this one goes out to...indian man standing right there. nice to see you indian man!" He continued this way for a good portion of the ride. At first I could see people on the subway laughing uncomfortably, but not too long afterwards, everyone gave in. it WAS funny, and suddenly we were all friends on this subway car. The guitarist first went around collecting money by replacing the lyrics to "Sexual Healing" with "baaby, there is nothing wrong with me taking money from you." and then, even more remarkable, he started offering money up to people who could guess the singers of the songs he was playing. he actually gave away $4 to a dude who kept guessing everything correctly. it was amazing. it was interactive and it was one of those amazing, and seemingly elusive NYC moments where strangers break down their walls and reach out to each other in a common space. i had never experienced quite so much energy and camaraderie on a subway ride before. it was remarkable, and i really hope to see that guitarist again. i'll probably write an essay about him at some stage.

and then there is the boy i met this weekend. it's so funny how things work out sometimes. it's funny how i would meet him around the same time that i am getting so involved with Coro's Immigrant Civic Leadership Program and meeting all these amazing people who care so much about immigrant rights and experiences. And it's funny, although partially deliberate, that I would be at Coro at all doing this work after my thesis on immigration in Aus.

but anyway, first I met Nermin, one of our participants in ICLP, and he has such an amazing story.. i guess in many ways, the quintessential story of a refugee. but it's especially amazing to me because i have not known anyone of OUR generation to have had that kind of struggle. it's always been semi-removed... my parents (and people of their generation) came to this country with no money and worked their asses off to the success they have now. nermin is in his 30s, and that is his story too. he came from wartorn Bosnia and scraped and saved to come to the US, and then scraped and saved some more to put himself through school and get a lucrative job.

and now there is this boy. He's 24 and from Turkey. His father died when he was 9, and his mother worked hard to make enough money to send him to a good boarding school. he got scholarships, etc, and he traveled to australia to experience life there...again with no money... and then came here to go to school. he used to go to school all day and work all night at a bar, but now he has his hours slightly cut back so that he works only on the weekends. he is alone in this country, and doesn't have enough money to go home and see his mom that often. he wants to be a lawyer, and talking to him that one night made me realize not only how badly he wants it, but also how unbelievably smart he is (despite english being his second language).

i am amazed and awed, truly. i don't know exactly how much i like him, but i know i haven't known anyone like that personally who is part of our generation. i am so privileged, and i know it, but it is a whole different feeling to talk and experience a person who has had such a markedly different life. it isn't that i feel small or ashamed necessarily, although i can't deny the tinge of guilt. but it makes me so badly want to help in any way i can in order to see him succeed. i want him to. he deserves it, and if i can help, i absolutely will. i am going to put him in touch with Nermin, since he has about 10 years experience above the boy.

i was telling Baba about him, and he told me that it sounds as if he really wants it (to be a lawyer, to do well here), and that is why he will succeed. i was telling Ma about him too, and about the concept of struggle, and what she said is true-- that while my struggle may not be like his.. to survive day to day and still work towards making dreams come true... mine will be on behalf of others. because i am privileged, i CAN help. i CAN struggle for someone else.

and i honestly think i want to. maybe that is my calling. we'll see.

but yea, all i know is that right now, i am feeling touched by humanity in a way i haven't felt in a long time. we're only here once and what i want more than anything else in the world is to meet people who know worlds so separate from my own. i guess that works as long as, despite the differences, we have those commonalities too.

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Sunday, December 16th, 2007
8:08 pm - How can love survive in such a graceless age
I got the call today, I didn't wanna hear
But I knew that it would come
An old true friend of ours was talkin' on the phone
She said you found someone
And I thought of all the bad luck,
And all the struggles we went through
How I lost me and you lost you
What are these voices outside love's open door
Make us throw off our contentment
And beg for something more?

I've been learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning them again
I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

These times are so uncertain
There's a yearning undefined
And people filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age
And the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
They're the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the work they put between us,
You know it doesn't keep us warm

I've been trying to live without you now
But I miss you, baby
The more I know, the less I understand
And all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again
I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my heart is so shattered
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

All the people in your life who've come and gone
They let you down, you know they hurt your pride
Better put it all behind you; cause life goes on
You keep carrin' that anger, it'll eat you up inside

I wanna be happily everafter
And my heart is so shattered
But I know it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I'm thinkin' about forgiveness
Even if you don't love me anymore
Even if you don't love me anymore

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Thursday, November 1st, 2007
11:36 pm
it's sort of amusing how terrified i am of clicking on dan's FB profile. ill do anything to avoid reaffirming his relationship status. i just don't want to know, even though i want to know so badly how he's doing. i want to speak to him, but i know im still in a emotional place where it would hurt me. i still miss him.

love seriously does not fade. it's funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

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Wednesday, October 31st, 2007
2:02 pm

_ Sumita Chakravarty
Having lived in the United States for upwards of two decades, the task of tracing the impact of American culture on my life seems both banal and forbidding. For what, after all, is there new to say? Either one is led to blandly acknowledge the definitive nature of this influence (I live here, after all, having first arrived as a student from India eager to take in all that America had to offer), or to embark on a path of cultural retrieval, highlighting all those parts of myself that remain obstinately "Indian." Yet to cast the issue in these terms is hopelessly inept. The "American" part of me (most obvious when I am in India) and the "Indian" part of me (intangibles I cling to as I negotiate everyday life in the New York metropolitan area) are as intertwined as are my allegiances to the country of my birth and the country of my adoption. I refuse to choose and I resent having to choose.

But the question of American cultural influence does not go away. It surfaces in likely and unlikely places: invariably in the "ethnic" gatherings of Bengali-Hindu poojas and festivals, parties and celebrations; in arguments with teenage children (my own) who refuse the burden of parental aspirations; and in the taut sinews of a body habitually serving as antenna for signals of rejection. In an intellectual climate when it is fashionable to be an outsider, I wonder what a cultural insider means. What is it that makes us belong? Whatever the answer to this question, I have realized that belongingness in not necessarily all that it is cracked up to be. Perhaps it is more pressing to consider whom or to what do we feel we belong, and under what circumstances. Belonging is, after all, as much a state of mind as is the feeling of exile.

As far back as I can remember America – through the Hollywood film and through the glossy magazines that my father borrowed and read from his office library – was a visible presence in the part of India where I grew up. An avid movie buff, my father was as devoted to American films as to the ones produced in Bombay. He regaled us with stories that convinced us of the unflinching pride, honesty and decency of American heroes and heroines and the superiority of the American way of life. Hollywood provided me with my visions of America and I was convinced that my destiny lay westward. And so it became. In the troubled 1960s and 70s, an impoverished India was faced with a brain drain as its youth, educated in its elite institutes of technology, went to swell the ranks of professionals in foreign lands, primarily America. I recall the envy, the aura that attached to those who came back home to visit: they (we) were the lucky ones, the fortunate ones who had moved on in the world. We were "phoren (foreign)-returned"!

I do not know what I have gained and what I have lost in succumbing to the lure of "America." There are the obvious emotional costs to bear in separation from one's immediate family and in the loss of a taken-for-granted cultural milieu. I believe one never quite lives down a feeling of guilt and vague betrayal of the country of one's birth in the act of one's leaving it. Immigrants abroad tend to cling on with ferocious attachment to the family traditions and cultural mores left behind. My own transplantation has been, I presume to imagine, less conflicted and as a consequence, perhaps, less colorful. Ironically, Hollywood has played a role in this process. For if Hollywood cinema had made American life seem distant and unattainable, it had also made it familiar. Thus it was comparatively easy, maybe superficially so, to get used to life in the U.S. But more importantly, my greatest gain has been to be disabused of the idea of America, of a mythic place and people with a special destiny. America signifies to me no longer the foreign country that would make me whole; rather it has taken on the accoutrements of the banal because of its familiarity. I love America because I can see it close up, warts and all. But not for the language of belonging. I want to be free.

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Friday, October 5th, 2007
5:31 pm - if my heart could write songs, they would sound like these
[truly. these feel like my words, my thoughts]

Where I Stood

I don't know what I've done
Or if I like what I've begun
But something told me to run
And honey you know me it's all or none

There were sounds in my head
LIttle voices whispering
That I should go and this should end
Oh and I found myself listening

'Cos I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

See I thought love was black and white
That it was wrong or it was right
But you ain't leaving without a fight
And I think I am just as torn inside

'Cos I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

And I won't be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do

'Cos I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood
Oh, she who dares to stand where I stood

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12:23 am
i made/have an aussie friend named chloe in my acting class at the new school. she mentioned today that she was going to a missy higgins concert. i nearly died, and even though the class ran late, and i had forgotten my phone at home, i cabbed it to and from the venue just so i could see her. i love her. absolutely ADORE her. and moreover, her songs on 'the Sound of White' are literally the soundtrack to my most beloved memories and feelings associated with australia. her songs in fact evoke emotions that the memories themselves don't necessarily tap into.

anyway seeing her was just perfect. small, intimate venue. she looked beautiful and sang perfectly. she is so talented. and 21 or 22 yrs old. aussies predominantly made up the audience. i met her guitarist after the show. chloe's friends were amused a bit that an american was such an ardent appreciator of her music. but the thing is of course, if people actually got the chance to hear her here, they'd adore her too. but im happy she has an intimate fan base here. if i ever try to see her in aus, id probably have to shell out nearly a hundred dollars. whereas here, $15 for a fabulous show.

anytime i think about it, i confirm that more than a person, australia may just be the love of my life. especially if i were to have to judge based on my loves right now at the present moment. i yearn for that place more than anything else. and somehow..and this is the strangest thing of all...i feel so at home with people from australia. almost always. there is some weird sort of wavelength thing i suppose. i can't really explain it. it's that thing bill bryson said...that some people, some places, just fit.
[question: why do you love england?]

"It's a very, very good question, and one, as you can imagine, I've asked myself many times. I could give you a whole list of things that I like and admire about Britain and the British, and it would be a pretty substantial list. I mean, there's an awful lot of very admirable things about them. But really, when you come down to it, I like Britain - indeed, love Britain - the same way I love my wife, which is because I do. My wife is, to me, the most fantastic person on Earth. I can't pretend she's the most beautiful woman who ever lived or the smartest or the best cook that's ever been, but to me, she's all those things. She suits me and I suit her, and it's kind of the same with Britain. For some reason, both for good reasons and bad, I like it. It fits me."


Lyrics to Steer

Feel it falling off like clothing
Taste it rolling on your tongue
See the lights above you glowing
Oh and breathe them deep into your lungs

It was always simple
Not hidden hard
You've been pulling at the strings
Playing puppeteer for kings
And you've
Had enough

But the search ends here
Where the night is totally clear
And your heart is fierce
So now you finally know
That you control where you go
You can steer

So hold this feeling like a newborn
Oh with freedom surging through your veins
You have opened up a new door
So bring on the wind, fire and the rain

It was always simple
Not hidden hard
You've been played at a game
Called remembering your name
And you
Stuffed it up

But the search ends here
Where the night is totally clear
And your heart is fierce
So now you finally know
That you control where you go
You can steer, oh

And now you finally know
That you control where you go
You can steer

'Cause you've been listening for answers
Oh but the city screams and all your dreams go unheard

But the search ends here
Where the night is totally clear
And your heart is fierce
So now you finally know
That you control where you go
You can steer, oh

You get out of the box
You step into the clear, oh
'Cause now you finally know you can

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Tuesday, September 18th, 2007
8:37 pm
this is so fucked up.

i can sit in my house, alone, and make my own CD that sounds near professional. if i went out and got some more sophisticated microphones, this very well MAY have sounded like a real studio-made recording.

as excited as i am about Garageband, it also seriously freaks me out. all this stuff really gives you the impression that you don't really need anyone else, that with the right program, you can sit in your home and do everything you've ever wanted. and don't get me wrong...doing something elaborate with this program is impressive..but it;s such a lonely experience. the whole artistic dimension of collaboration is totally missing. unless you want to consider collaboration between human and machine valid, which i suppose is the whole point. that is a valid collaboration now. and that FREAKS ME OUT.

technology, as amazing as it, drives us further apart. i wish the whole thing wasn't quite so double-edged. but then again, i guess everything is.

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Friday, September 14th, 2007
10:22 pm
im sorry, but how does ANYONE survive living in new york for less than 40K a year?? between taxes and rent, according to my calculations, i'd be left with $150 a week to live life. which yea, is fine, but that's only assuming i don't do anything else aside from eat and go to work. going to london to audition. or making trips. or going out. how would that happen? dear lord.

this is insane. and i am stressed out.

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Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
11:47 pm
it's weird

it's weird how empty i feel now that nups is back at school.

i guess part of it has to do with the fact that i've always been the one to leave or travel elsewhere. but even so, moving him in last year was difficult. stomaching the fact that he graduated high school (and that i couldn't be there to see it) was even harder.

but no, mainly it's because we finally had a summer to just hang out together. i can't remember the last time we've gotten to do that. we have such a great relationship, but i think this summer helped us to realize that the quality of it has little to do with the fact that we are barely in the same place. we survived constantly being in each other's space without a problem really. barring a couple of tiffs here and there, we got along "like a house on fire" (to quote my darling Dane). and it was so so nice.

he called my phone just now to let me know how things went today at school. i was just about to text him a half hour ago to update him on Top Chef. i love the way he just rattles off shit on the phone without any pauses, so that I can't really get in a word edgewise.

it's weird to think of how we have to be thankful for the way things are right now, at this given moment. i always tell people what great friends my brother and i are and how much respect we have for each other--- it was funny telling my cousin Rinku about Nups (when I was in London) and all his accomplishments, and all she said in response was, "wow i wish i felt the inclination to talk about my brother like that." but what's scary to think is that it may not always be like this. we were joking the other day about how if either of us were to choose a spouse the other doesn't like, we'll have to say something. But if it does unfold that way, we'd drift apart for sure. That's how things unfortunately sometimes are.

i guess ill always be worrying about and missing him.

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Saturday, August 11th, 2007
10:15 am - INDIA
left on July 10th, came back August 8th.

it was a truly amazing trip..beyond that, im not really sure how else to describe it. i learned so much about my culture, my parents, my family, my friends (haha). but each step was beautiful and exactly what i needed this summer. i've been telling everyone that this is the first time that i've been to india where i've realized that it is in fact a place where i could be happy living, where I could envision working, partying, making a life. it was a strange but awesome realization. this trip also helped my brother in particular, but myself included, rediscover how goddamn upstanding and talented and overall GOOD our family is. like my brother said one day in a cab in mumbai, "i'm realizing that as much as I feel like my friends are like family at home and how friends become close as family, there is really nothing that compares to FAMILY." when runa didi took me, nups, appu and nanu out that night in mumbai and when we spent hours laughing while having tea at the Taj, or when Pushan, Nups and I had heartfelt conversations about old romances despite our broken bangla and his broken english. mind you, we hadn't seen ANY of these cousins for 7 years. to instanteously reconnect like that reveals far more about love and family than any relationship could.

there is so much else that happened, and so much else that we saw. we went to Ellora and the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad---a small town named after the last great Mughal emperor--(35+ temples and monasteries carved out of mountain, created by hindus, buddhists and jains somewhere between 5 and 10 C AD). we went to Mysore, where Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British (I learned all this in Gandhi's India) and where one of the most ornate, gorgeous palaces I have EVER seen exists. i also managed to sprain my ankle and have a whole throng of strangers on the streets of bangalore offer to help me. i got the flu, stomach flu, allergies, haha. but all the health issues didn't matter at all, and shouldn't, because it's only the body's natural reaction to so much fast-paced change. if one didn't get sick, it would be rather strange. lastly, i met some great people from the New School and learned some disappointing (not heavily so, though) things about the barnard girls i brought along on the trip. but that latter part has helped me to realize that i don't have tolerance for stupidity anymore, nor will i trust other people's judgment in terms of people anymore. i trust my judgment much more, haha. i also know that i can only really travel alone or with family because travel is a beloved activity for me, and unless i know someone can be as open-minded and easy-going as is needed for traveling, i'd much rather be on my own. travel allows me to start again, to discover a new place and myself in a new context, and it is a privilege. it's PERSONAL. so unless i am absolutely sure someone will be able to make the most of such a wonderful experience, they are just a hinderance, a bother, a nail in the foot. to be fair though, india is definitely one of the hardest countries to travel to, mainly because it is jarring to see all the poverty and pollution, while also having to adjust to the climate and change in living conditions. but that makes it all the more dire that one has a discerning eye... to be able to see the layers in a culture and society... to see beyond its apparent "ugliness" to the beauty that is undeniably there underneath. i suppose at the end of the day, you have to want to see beauty, to seek it out. it's much too easy (and a cop-out, i think) to only see what is revolting, disappointing. and instead of trying to understand a culture more the inside out, i think most of us bull-headedly try to interpret from the outside in--imposing our perspective on the other. what that does is create an even larger gap between us and them, the familiar and unfamiliar. what's so strange to me though is how people so easily forget that we are all HUMAN. we are people. i was telling emily and brit how amazing and mind-boggling it is to me that no matter where in the WORLD one goes, one will find these ancient remnants of civilization and religion and government. i really do think that human beings are driven towards a set of common goals (not all positive of course), or in the very least, hard-wired towards certain activities and behavior. hope exists in all cultures, just as much as hate does. and anyway, all i mean to say is that when one travels, one must be able to see how the differences one sees may be accounted for by a common, perhaps even human, underlying intent or desire. or more importantly, to think of person's motivations in the context of THEIR culture, not in the context of one's own. ten people may give you wrong directions on the street and not mean any malice by it...they just may value being helpful over having the correct information/knowledge. i think a lot of things in india can be seen in terms of lack of personal space, or really having no concept in place of "personal space" the way we do in america. this bleeds into all different types of behavior, from being overly helpful on the street, to harassing tourists incessantly, to piling hundreds of people into a small train car, to needing to always know the business of all your family and friends. also, i was asked a lot of times why all the indian movie stars, esp the women, don't look indian. i should have been more adamant in saying that regardless of how they LOOK, they ARE fucking indian. aishwaria rai may look italian, but she is full indian. and even for someone with mixed parentage, if they are born in india and consider themselves to be indian, THEN THEY ARE! haha. People automatically assumed that the reason all the women in movies and shows are fair-skinned is because of the British and an Indian fixation with "white people." The more I thought about this, the more I realize this is totally wrong. The ruling class for a LONG time in India was fair-skinned (Mughals= Muslims from the North=fair), and being dark has always been associated with working outside and not being able to afford to have servants to do work for you, etc. And it has been the same almost everywhere else... including America. It's only thanks to hip hop, which is a recent phenomenon, that actual black women are on tv and in the movies. before this, only very fair-skinned black girls were on tv (mariah, beyonce). people can never seem to reflect their assumptions back on themselves.

i miss my cousins, my adorable grandmother, my family and i wish i had had more time to see bangalore. i can't wait to go back to india to see rajasthan up north, and goa and kerala in the south, and sri lanka and nepal too. there is SO much beauty in that one subcontinental area---snow-capped mountains, beautiful beaches, bustling cities, jungles, vibrant culture, EVERYTHING. so much left to do.

in other news, i am trying with all my might now to let go of all my sadness and emotional disappointment from the past year. it wears me down to carry all that around. i'm going to try to direct all that energy towards ambition instead, especially since the work-area of my life needs all the energy it can get.

i am letting dan go. hopefully in a month or two, i will have fully let it go. i just NEED to leave it behind, as hard as it is. i keep thinking of that quote from ally mcbeal that i wrote down years and years ago: "happiness is a thousand tears away." i think i believe that. i can only hope that some day i'll be able to look back and understand that having to let go of so much love was necessary for me to find eventual happiness. haha we shall see i guess. i won't hold my breath. it's my own duty to make myself happy. the end.

if it's not too late for coffee
ill be at your place at 10
we'll hit an all-night diner and then we'll see...

there's a love that transcends all that we know of ourselves
and ill wait for it to come
ill wait for it come

and it's got to be strong to touch my heart through its shell
and ill wait for it to come
ill wait for it come...


ps- two really funny anecdotes about my parents that i don't want to forget

1. Didu told us this one--> My mom, when she was about 7 or 8, was really upset with my grandma and just with life apparently, so first she climbed onto a balcony and threatened to jump. My grandma just scoffed at her and chided her along (during the story, my mom was like, look at how loving and kind your grandmother was). so after my mom saw that no one was really paying her any attention, she stormed off to her room and packed a small bag and yelled that she was going to run away. It was extremely hot outside, and apparently, what people would do in the heat was put an onion somewhere on their person to prevent a lot of sweating, usually in a shirt pocket (im not sure if this actually works, but that's what people would do). so my mom, having known this, went into the kitchen, got two onions, put them in her underarms and stormed off with her bag. apparently she walked to some park nearby and sat under a tree all afternoon and evening, until a neighbor who was coming home from work saw her and carried her back home.

haha i always wondered where i got my histrionics from. now, its rather clear.

2. my dad's middle sister told us this--> my dad, the eldest, would take naps in the afternoon, during which his younger siblings would sneak out of the house to see movies or go play, etc. apparently all the siblings were terrifed of my father (which both my brother and i have such a hard time understanding, cuz daddy is such a sweetie/goof now). so one day, my middle pishi (aunt) saw my dad was napping, so she snuck out and went to a neighbor's place to get mehndhi/henna done on her hand. during that time, henna was only really for brides, and not the fashion statement it can be nowadays. when she finished and was ready to leave, she realized that my dad was on the doorstep with my grandmother waiting to take her back home. nervous, she just breezily says to my dad, "oh Dada, look at how pretty my hand looks!" My dad said, "oh let me see" and she extends her hand to show him. He silently takes her hand and puts it (and the wet henna) all over her face.

i have no words for how shocking and hilarious this story is. my dad was the terrifying, disciplining older brother! we never ever saw this side of him growing up. even when he would get angry, he would always feel too bad to be angry for long. so so interesting.

we also brought home this BEAUTIFUL picture of my dad as a 16 yr old, in a picture with 4 of his friends from HS. It's in black and white, and my father just looks so handsome and young and smart. I just couldn't stop looking at it.

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Saturday, July 7th, 2007
3:21 pm
one thing i know about myself is that if i want something badly enough, i make it happen. i just do. i may not look like it, but i am rather tenacious.

the problem instead is that i need to know what it is i want. at this very moment, what is it that i want. if i could really clear this for myself, i could plow towards those goals.

it is this confusion, this paralysis, that breaks my heart.

australia keeps bringing me back to this. because to be honest, what i want more than anything is to go back. but will it get me where i need? would i be happy if i gave up the promise of singing to get a job in a place i love? would that be enough? but can i endure this heartbreak for another couple of years, while i figure the singing stuff out? do i really want to be a singer badly enough? at the present moment, it doesn't seem like it.

i guess it isn't even a question of my not knowing what i want so much as my not knowing what to prioritize, how to believe that i can satisfy all these seemingly divergent desires. and in some very wildly optimistic moments, i truly believe i can. why can't i go to london to study singing AND continue my australian studies? i suppose that is the best middle ground i can see right now. and meanwhile, keep traveling back to aus as often as possible until the rest of the stuff falls into better perspective.

oh life. i wish i could ask someone for guidance too. but i don't know a single person in my boat. my heart tells me i belong somewhere, but the opportunities for my field cannot be found where i long to be. if it had been any other field, it wouldn't feel quite so stupid to move from new york to melbourne. but for the arts? doesn't make much sense, does it?

i don't know.

"i'm waiting for the day i no longer feel torn"

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