Yellow-crowned Night Heron


During one morning, I stopped by a marshy area along Bayou St. John. I was planning on running over the levee just across the bayou. The sun was already out, displaying its devilish games. The grass was wet and dewy; in some parts mushy—remnants from Sunday’s storm that flooded some neighborhoods. I cut through the grass, checking what spots to avoid so my sneakers wouldn’t get soaked. “Ahh too wet.” The shaded spots were still wet, and the sunnier ones had dry yellow, green grass. I walked up a steep concrete incline to the top, overlooking a marshland tied along to Bayou St. John, which was close to the Robert E. Lee Blvd. overpass.

Observations

After my run, I went back to the car to check for my camera, and realized I forgot to charge my battery. At least I had binoculars in case of any bird sightings. My camera was obsolete at this point, and I was mad at myself. I suspected, I would not see too many birds, since it was past sunrise and it was hot outside. All the birds were probably hiding. From the top of the levee, I saw a bird with curvy neck observing the water. Some type of heron, I thought. It was a lot smaller than a Great Blue Heron, but it had a similar gray hue. I walked down the levee, toward the bird, keeping a good distance away, where I could see it better. Its head was black, minus the thick white patch across its face. I looked at it for a while before I walked closer. When it noticed me, it walked away to the left side near some over grown wild grass. It stood there wondering my next move, listening for any steps I might take. I walked closer, then once it noticed I was taking photos, it decided it had enough and flew away, making its way to a wide circular lookout. “Ha you can’t get me here,” it probably thought. I pointed my binoculars toward the heron, noticing its plumage, the curve of its neck, the odd white patch, its yellow eyes, and a tiny black pupil in the middle.

Most of the time, I only see birds up close through drawings or videos, and it’s always beautifully strange seeing them in the real world. I wish I could draw it, exactly as I saw the bird, with its smooth gray plumage, the superiority of its bill, but with my drawing skills, I couldn’t possibly capture exactly as it looked.

I noticed it was making a strange gesture with its wings, so I chose to walk away. It was turning aggressive even though I was far away. Its wings were folded on the side and its chest was pushed out, as if saying, “I’ll fight you.” “I think it hates me. It’s doing something weird,” I thought, and I playfully hid my face thinking the bird was pissed. Then it began cleaning the lower parts of its wings. Eventually, it forgot about me.

I also saw a Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, standing by the overpass, but it soon flew away, seeing as no one was paying attention to it. It flew to a large tree behind the bayou.

Facts

Yellow-crowned Night Herons forage at all hours of the day and night, eating crustaceans near wetlands and wet fields, usually searching for crabs and crayfish. They slowly stalk prey near shallow water, plunge with their bills, impale, shake apart or swallow whole crustaceans. They also feed on earthworms and leeches, frogs, and young birds. They tend to be several feet away from the water’s edge, never too close to others—at least 15 feet from other individuals. These herons live along coastal marches, barrier islands, and mangroves. They have stocky bodies, short legs, and thick necks.

For nest building, they make use of dead, brittle twigs, breaking them if they have to, sometimes stealing from other nests. These nests can measure up to 4 feet. Both females and males work together in the building of the nests, and the process can take up to 10 days. Nests are sometimes re-used, filled with more twigs, often lasting 20 years. Herons tend to nest close or over water in trees such as pine and oak—as high as 60 feet or more off the ground—or on lower vegetation such as mulberry, myrtle, hackberry, and mangrove.

When it comes to looking for a mate, herons perform display flights and males will stretch their necks by slowly raising then quickly retracting its head while fanning his long shoulder plumes, to which the females will sometimes reciprocate. Pairing is socially monogamous, as they maintain their bonds year to year, nesting close together. Both adults and young defend their site from intruders, by lunging and thrusting with their bills while squawking.

Short Film: Joy Joy Nails


The scene opens with a couple of girls smoking and gossiping, as they wait for a car to pick them up. One of them mentions that Sarah has moved up to be the front girl, since the previous girl was fired. Sarah says she deserves it, since she has been working there for a long time. Sarah stands on the corner smoking with her makeup all done up and dressed to fit the part of the boss, unlike the other girls who are a little more casual, but still rocking bright red lipstick. They won’t miss the ex front desk girl, since she treated them unfairly. With those first lines of dialogue, it’s implied that the rest of the girls have inferior parts to play in the nail salon. They also talk about a handsome guy who works there, the son of the nail salon owner. Sarah jokes that he likes her face. Behind them, the sullen expression of a tall girl appears wearing drab colors. “It’s fresh off the boat,” says Sarah, laughing. She talks about the new trainee in Korean, saying “she probably still gets her clothes from China.” They all ride out in a white van to the nail salon. It appears they’re heading to New Jersey, as the car passes suburban homes and mansions. The girls spend the rest of their afternoon in the salon.

In Joy Joy Nails there’s a flow of scenes depicting traffic, people walking, stores with Chinese symbols and juxtapositions familiar to Flushing, New York. The salon has a hue of pinks that overwhelms the screen. The shelves are filled with an array of nail polish colors like a field of flowers. Sarah’s pink lipstick radiates as she walks around smiling, observing the other girl, saying hello to customers, and keeping things organized and clean. Though Sarah has a cheerful personality, but she’s also childish and vindictive. The salon has a feeling of girlishness, but also an insincere, sugary and sterile environment.

Short film have always been intriguing to me, since they capture so much in a short span of time. Keeping things short and tidy, make Joy Joy Nails, which is under 20 minutes poignant and heartfelt. It also touched on important subjects: female relationships, female/male power dynamics, gender roles, new immigrants vs. older one.

The guy who the girls were swooning over in the beginning turns out to be an asshole. Though the Sarah has her eyes set on him, he starts checking out the new girl, who works in the back. Sarah notices, but doesn’t think anything of it, until she sees them going to the massage room together. The guy tells her, he is going to look for an earing a customer lost, and take Mia with him. Sarah spies on them through the security camera in the front. Sarah sees that both of them come out a while later. She automatically assumes Mia has an interest in the guy. Sarah confronts Mia later in the day after finding the earring herself in the massage room. Mia breaks out in tears and Sarah realizes that something worse has occurred to her. Of course she never really says it, but by her gestures we can tell something awful happen to Mia in the massage room. Later that night, Sarah buys Plan B, and then gives it to Mia the next day. She also gives her a deposit and a new job address some place else. Back at the nail salon, she tells the creepy guy that she fired Mia, but doesn’t fully explain why, but hints at the fact that she knows what happen, and asks him to pay for some extra materials out of his own pocket. She also plans to take the day off. He begrudgingly accepts the arrangement, but acknowledges that he has no choice, otherwise Sarah will go to his parents, and tell them what he did. The film leaves off with Sarah giving a side smile.

It was especially juvenile for Sarah to make a big deal about the guy in the first place and scream at Mia. After knowing the truth, it was clear Sarah felt shitty, so she helped Mia and gave her info for a new job, but the perpetrator was simply given a hand slap. Sarah also could not risk losing her job, by making a bigger deal out of this incident, so she decides on a convenient solution for her and the new girl. At least Mia will no longer be forced to go to work with this sick guy around. Sarah is no longer as naïve as she was before, now knowing the asshole she’s working with.

The director was able to create scenes with tension and drama. Even though some scenes are in another language, I was able to connect with them, and they weren’t overly long, so as not to bore the audience since sometime there were no subtitles. My favorite scene is still the one with all the girls waiting for the van as they are gossiping. In the next we see the main girl take on her role as the boss, by telling one of the girls not to wear her necklace. There’s also a scene where she’s intently looking at herself at a bathroom mirror, brushing her hair and getting ready for the day, as someone knocks. It cuts to the next morning, when the sun is not fully out yet, and Sarah walks to meet Sarah behind a store, so as no one will hear their conversation.

It’s infuriating how much these two women have to cover for this careless, half-brained guy. It’s clear how much power he holds as the son of the nail salon owner. He was able to prey on a vulnerable person, who’s new to the country and speaks little English. Sarah realizes her own power, even if small, she can wield some of it, after knowing this secret. But, she cannot go as far as firing him.


You can watch the film through the New Yorker channel, below:

I’m an immigrant who took advantage of Obama’s regulations, and now I’m a millionaire


I must confess, as a minority living in the big bad city, I took advantage of Obama’s regulations, which restricted smalls businesses, destroyed jobs and increased taxes for white Americans. With his regulations, I was able to open several Delis, and now I’m a millionaire. But I wasn’t the only one. Soon enough every gas station, deli or laundrymat was owned and operated by an immigrant, and all the “regular joes” were out on the street begging for money, asking for welfare and getting sick from their coal jobs. When you think of the American dream this is what you envision.

When you hear that America is paved with gold, it isn’t a lie, you can open a business almost immediately upon arrival to the U.S., because Obama regulation, but only if you’re a immigrant, preferably from central, south America, or Africa, a refugee, or a person of color.

Thanks to Obama “regular joes” are not allowed to open a business, and there’s a harsh tax levied on them simply for existing. Obama regulations do not allow citizens to open businesses. You have to be an illegal immigrant, obviously (it says so under the regulatory guidelines). These “regular joes” don’t understand—that’s just how regulations work in America.

Yes, it’s true they hurt small businesses, but only for the ones that are owned by “regular joes,” and by this, I mean the rural white folks specifically not living in the big bad cities. They are not meant to regulate companies who pollute the environment, use tax loopholes or bride foreign goverments. Nope. It is strictly meant to undermine hardworking Americans who are white and sick from their coal jobs, or currently living in a town with more than half of the populating gone.

As an illegal immigrant, I live a lavish lifestyle, taking boat trips on the weekends, and sipping champagne. Thanks to Obama-era regulations, I also don’t work 10 or 12 hours a day, nor did I save a for years, or take out a loan before I bought my first Deli, nor did I have to work a below-minimum wage job for years at a chicken factory, where no one had health benefits, but everyone stayed quiet, because they were afraid ICE would come and arrest us. No, that’s not my story.

It was simply handed to me by way of Section 3: Free Businesses for Minorities, in the Obama Handbook Regulation that every immigrant receives upon arrival. It’s the how to, on easy access to opening up a small business, while closing up shop for the “regular joes” of America, and not paying taxes. That’s how the government cuts costs, so immigrants can open their own stores, and only hire other immigrants. It’s the cycle that keeps on giving. It was Obama’s master plan, really, and I’m glad I took advantage.

 

 

 

Update: contact, give thanks, dream monuments, sugarcane


Things should be winding down, now that it’s fall, but a frenzy of energy picking up. I don’t know if it’s me or just the universe in general. Despite what’s going on in the world and our own personal troubles, people have a way of show kindness and good humor even in the harshest moments.

 

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This week has been filled with new experiences. Last week, I tried contact improv, a free-moving dance form without many boundaries or choreography. I would describe it as modern ballet without the structure, but it’s not quiet that. You’re dancing with another person in a back and forth, flowing movement, as if balancing each other—pushing and pulling. I also went to a poetry reading with bluesy jazz. I have read for other local poetry events, but since I was new to this one, I didn’t have any material that I felt was relevant, or that would go with the melodies of blues jazz and accompaniment of the piano, bass and drums, but I heard some powerful slam poetry, and a girl who usually sang, felt like rapping, since her voice was raspy. It was her birthday and she had requested another Hennessey shot from the bartender. Her voice and a guy playing the drums were in unison, as if they had practiced for hours, but most likely it flourished in the spur of a moment.

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Earlier this month, I got to see what kind of monuments third graders at Homer A. Plessy Community School want to see in their city. I helped them craft short essays on their favorite historical figures, places and things. It’s amazing what kids will write about when you ask them the big questions, like who should be given a monument, those they admire and deserve to be remembered. This Big Class in-school project allowed kids to come up with thought-provoking writing to convince readers on why their monument ideas are the best, and it also allowed them to read in front of an audience once it was published in a book form, under the titled of Courageous, Eccentric, Diverse: New Monuments for New Orleans. The student’s picks, included Solomon Northup, pelicans, beignets, Ruby bridges and more. Proceeds from book sales will go to funding Big Class’s new youth writing center, which will be the first 826 National chapter in the South.

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I’m not one to make a fuss about the holidays, especially as it pertains to the shopping spree that ensues as an excuse for consumerism. Also, celebrating thanksgiving is detached from history, since most people don’t think about what it means for Native Americans that have suffered since pilgrims made contact and colonized their lands. I do see the good intention in giving thanks and the opportunity to gather with family and friends and enjoy a descent plate of food, and be cheery in unison. For give thanks day, I visited Thibodaux with my partner to have lunch with his family. It was farther south, almost heading to Isle de Jean Charles. On the way we passed Raceland, and the frequent sugarcane fields lining up on side of the road and expanding outward—some of it tall and ready for plucking. Getting closer to Thibodaux, we saw trucks carrying loads of sugarcane to be processed at refineries visible from the car. These faded white factories with long chimneys threw out steam and smells, like molasses burning. Later, I saw the distinct Southern oak trees with moss hanging. They are not as robust as the ones in New Orleans. They are smaller and quaint, and usually standing next to distant white and reddish houses that seem to have less permanence than the trees. I wanted to get out of the car and take a photo, but we were moving fast. They reminded me of old paintings of the south I had seen in NOMA. I spent time with my partner’s relatives, talking to his dad and getting to know about their family history and feeling happy being in warm company. We had some yummy southern food: mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, gumbo, collard greens and more. There was also turkey, so I said goodbye to my vegetarian (sometimes fish) routine that I had been keeping for the last couple of weeks. But it was worth it—you only eat turkey once a year.

 

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Letting the rain pass


I watched the clouds slowly surround Crescent Park and the lightning go off across the river. I should have left, but it was tempting to see the dark clouds cover the sky above me, as the wind picked up and the river pushed against concrete and metal. My hat almost flew away. I thought I could, sit there, and watch the clouds accumulate, and then suddenly it began raining, not in droves, but I biked home in the full rain, and it was beautiful.

Update: trying to get back into the habit

 


A certain kind of Southern fall is upon us with slightly cold mornings and nights. The days are often still too hot for a sweater. Over this past weekend, I was out playing pool with some friends at night, and it felt nice wearing my hat and sweater. I was hopelessly giddy. “I’m in my fall mode,” I said, knowing the temperature would probably go back to being hot the next day. Also, I don’t always play pool but when I do, I swear I’m not terrible.

 

 

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A girl like me searching for a quiet moment in Astoria Park.

Ever since I got back from NYC, it’s been harder to get back into writing regularly on here. Although, I started editing my poems and looking for places to pitch my articles, I still feel distracted. My mind seems a little more cluttered, since I got back. The constant flow of people, and the need to go out and do something left me feeling empty. This feeling is also attributed to the constant news updates regarding our collective national drama. I mean you want to be informed, but not so preoccupied.

With so many things going on when I visited, there was hardly any time for sitting down and contemplating. Sometimes you really have to isolate yourself if you want to get any work done. I’ve realized, it’s harder to get back into the habit of writing when you’ve abandoned it. You often go days without jotting your thoughts, and they start piling up and you don’t know what you’ve done, or your thoughts in that particular moment. Things fade when they were never reflected upon in the first place.

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Stumbled upon this cool alleyway in the lower east side.

When I landed into LaGuardia Airport and walked off to take the local bus to my house, I was immediately met with an onslaught of confused people, who didn’t know how buy Metrocards for the M60 bus. Sadly, I was one them. I was suddenly a tourist coming to visit. “You mean you can’t buy a Metrocard from the machines?” I asked a guy. “Yea, you have to go back inside the airport to get one if you don’t all ready have one.” I remembered then that you had to insert your Metrocard to get a ticket in order to board the bus, and I also remembered how stupid this was.

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I decided to sit down in Union Square Park for a bit and look at the landscape of people passing by.

My neighborhood isn’t the noisiest, though on some nights walking by the N train in Astoria, it was suddenly livelier than usual. I noticed some new bars and restaurants, and there was even a lounge, a place for casual dancing on Ditmars Blvd with its name written in neon pink letters. Had I been a freshman in college, perhaps I would have welcomed a site like this. One night walking back home I noticed, smoke encircling customers sitting by the bar with neon pink lights. It was clear the establishment was going for a club atmosphere even within the small confines. It was a bit outlandish, and not remotely associated with the quaintness of Ditmars. I found comfort in my family, the cats and a quiet garden to sooth the busyness of the outside world. It also didn’t help that on my first night back I found myself in Hell’s Kitchen for a friend’s birthday party. It was a chaotic welcome to my old city. Granted, I was happy to see my friend, and the view of the rooftop lounge made up for the commute.

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I stopped by to see this lady on a sunny day, and discovered how extensive the creative process was to sculpt and build her.

I had some wonderful days in NYC, visiting the MET and getting lost with my sister, hanging out at a bar in Woodside with my favorite couple, seeing One World Trade Center for the first time, including the Oculus (transportation hub) which was probably dreamed up after a Sci-fi movie, visiting the east village with friends, and thinking I was too old for this place, sitting by the staircase in Grand Central, wandering around my favorite bookstore—Strand, taking the ferry to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with my family (I know it’s touristy, but all this time living in New York, I never visited), a surprise stop in the Queens Museum with a friend from college, hanging out by Prospect Park, getting a tour of a Red Hook brewery from an old friend, and showing my partner around my city. On one of those nights, I also went to a poetry reading at the New School.

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Surprise visit to the Queens Museum exhibition on my last day, brought the trip full circle.

I miss the array of activities one can find in NYC. There’s a wider possibility of outcomes, but the same can be said for New Orleans, although here, the land stretches out farther.

 

Sabor a mi


 

Sabor a mi

By: Idania Valdes

Tanto tiempo disfrutamos de este amor

Nuestras almas se acercaron tanto así

que yo guardo tu sabor

pero tu llevas también

sabor amí

Si negaras mi presencia en tu vivir

bastaría con abrazarte y conversar

Tanta vida yo te di y

que por fuerza tienes ya

sabor a mí

sabor a mí


 We enjoyed this love for so long

Our souls moved closer to each other like so

that I keep your taste

but you also carry

a taste of me

If you denied my presence in your life

It would be enough to hug or talk to you

So much life I gave you and

and with strength you already have

a taste of me

a taste of me

 

 

 

 

Chico and Rita


The film opens with Chico staring out of the window to view, the old streets of La Havana. Just as the city itself has deteriorated over time, so has Chico’s motivation for life. He changes the radio station only to find that most of them are broadcasting Fidel Castro’s speeches, but then he finally finds one, playing music. It’s the Melodies of Yesterday playing on the radio. The song takes him back to the Havana of his youth where he met Rita.

Chico and Rita met in 1948 before the revolution when Havana was a bustling city with colorful streets, historical buildings, large casinos, fancy hotels and bars. Back then, musicians gathered freely to play and sing without fear that the government would shut them down. From the moment Chico met Rita, they were drawn to each other, but neither wanted to show it, so they played hard to get until Rita decides to join his group of friends. Later, in the middle of the night, when everyone goes home, Chico plays the piano as she sings to the melody in a shoddy bar. On the screen, Rita’s voice moves along with her curves underneath a yellow dress, twirling about and giving sensual glances and smiles at Chico.

Just as their romance quickly begins, it erupts into anger when Rita discovers that Chico has a woman on the side; though he doesn’t actually care for her. Chico continues to chase Rita until she agrees to sing with him in a competition. They win and eventually get offered an ongoing singing gig at a famous hotel. Through one misunderstanding or another, they are once again embroiled in an inconsolable argument, and Rita abandons Cuba for New York City, thinking Chico betrayed her.

The paring of the animation and music creates a sultry world where characters seem to naturally fall in love. La Havana has a magical quality with illustrious architecture. The detailed chromatic animation, done by artist Javier Mariscal, captures the tone and mood of Cuba and New York City in the late 1940s and 1950s. The directors (Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando) were actually able to replicate many of the streets from photo archives the Havana city government had kept since 1949. We also get views of the urban, sometimes snowy landscape of NYC. When Chico and his friends arrive to New York City, they witness their first blanket of snow. They also visit Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and famous hotels and music venues like the Village Vanguard where many Jazz legends played. Much of the soundtrack includes original Jazz and Bolero standards by Cuban Jazz legend Bebo Valdes Valdés.

The music and drawings are favored over longer dialogue and character development, to the point of leaving many things to assumption. Some characters appear one-sided, and without giving much time to reflecting on their actions. There are some missing scenes that could have been used to broaden out the story.

The film has a quick pace as we are taken from Cuba to New York to Paris to Las Vegas, as Chico follow’s Rita’s path. Between these moments the two try to stay together only to distance themselves once more because of their fiery tempers. When Chico returns to Cuba, he finds La Havana without music or life, now that his girl is gone.He sees the political situation worsening, with the onset of the revolution and Fidel’s communist government. Only the complaints of neighbors about the power outages can be heard. Rita was his heart and soul, which he expressed through piano melodies.

It almost seems unfair how destiny keeps playing with them, but it also seems silly how moments arise, which could have easily been solved, but yet, they give in to an absolute fate. “Why does it always have to be so dramatic?” should be a common thought, but maybe love and suffering go hand in hand for these two.