Monday, March 26, 2012

So Strange

That is a very un PC title, but I can only think of that and far worse as a name for a family I work with. Of course I  was not referred to the entire family. The Regional Center Case Manager told me she has a little boy who needs speech therapy - she knows I am not a speech therapist. According to her she either can't find one, or hasn't tried. She needs a speech therapist who speaks Spanish, and who will agree to go to the home, so, as usual, she asked me to go. I agreed because referrals are very low, and any kind of intervention is helpful.

I knocked on the door of the Section 8 housing apartment and a short, dark-skinned black haired woman came to the door. She gestured to me to come in, and as my eyes became accustomed to the relative darkness I looked for a place to sit down. I found a chair next to a formica table laden with bottles of chile, an open box of oreos, salt, pepper, a few slices of bread, and boxes of fruit juice- the kind for children with the straw attached. A queen sized mattress was on the floor in the corner of the carpeted room, across from an old-fashioned, and old, TV which stood on a chest of drawers. Most of the drawers were open and socks and clothing spilled out. A sofa was next to the wall and it was covered with toys, stuffed animals, balls, ring stacks, a broken leapfrog computer, blocks, jigsaw puzzles. I was surprised by the toys which were of a suitable developmental level for the two young girls standing staring at a me with enormous brown eyes. A man sat on a chair and I presumed he must be dad.

I introduced myself.  The parents didn't introduce themselves. Instead the woman gestured to the slightly shorter girl with long dead straight black hair. I had thought the referral was to a boy, but I was obviously wrong. Right next to her stood a slightly taller, plump girl with long curly black hair tied into braids. I stared back and then the mother who obviously saw my confusion, said, 'it  is a boy, but he looks like a girl. The two, brother and sister, stood in front of the TV, transfixed by me, apparently, because they seemed frozen in place. I told the mother we needed to fill in paperwork. She and I pulled the chairs closer to the table, the surface of which, I soon found out, was very sticky. I gave mom my pen and she began filling in the paperwork. The girl approached me and placed herself directly in front of me, staring. She had slightly dysmorphic features, and although she is over three years old, she can't speak, at all. The parents and I spoke spanish, they don't know any english, but the mother informed me that the son has one word, and that is 'shoes' (in english.) He is two and a half and the girl is about 10 months older.

I explained to the parents that I would come once a week to work with the boy.  It is a one-roomed apartment. Mom and the children are cooped up inside. Dad works in Antioch as a waiter and only returns home once a week. The only outing they ever have is to Childrens Hospital once a week, as the little girl gets transfusions. Mom and the kids take the bus and Bart. All the toys, mom told me, are gifts from the nurses. Otherwise they would not have any toys at all.

My arrival with my bag of toys is an occasion for unrivaled glee. The girl is convinced I am there to play with her and when I come in she hugs my legs and won't let her brother get near. I explain that we need to sit and I have toys for both of them. In response to my reasonable remarks she begins to cry. When she cries and lies on the floor drumming her heels her brother approaches. He keeps still for maybe a split second then he runs around in circles. The girl stops crying and comes back. When she returns he also comes back then she pulls his hair, hard. I tell her to stop, and offer her a toy, but she looks at me and pulls his head harder. He cries, she pulls and I tell her to stop, then she cries. Once she stops crying again she then pulls my hair and kicks me. The boy hides behind a sofa and mom, on my most recent visit, remained in the kitchen cooking chilies, and I coughed and my eyes watered. It is like a circus. Sometimes when the girl stops crying she comes up to me, folds her arms across her chest and babbles in gibberish. No matter what I bring, the boy takes one look then goes to kick his large ball, hard, in my direction.

I have never seen dad again. Last week a man was there, I was not introduced, and after observing this insane performance for a few minutes he left to sit outside. From something mom said I understood he is her brother.

The kids consume enormous amounts of sugar. The boy climbs on the table and eats jam straight from the jar. The suck popsicles and drink soda. I am sure this does not help their excitable states, but I am not sure exactly what to do. I did say to mom that it would be good for him to drink water, as she said he likes it. She cut his hair before my last visit and now he looks like a little boy - a strange little enormous-eyed imp. Now the girl doesn't have that much to pull, but she manages to pull clumps nevertheless.

What I am doing there I do not know. I do not believe I am in anyway contributing and have told this to the case manager.


Saturday, March 24, 2012


I am sooooooo very grateful to be able to post this, and that nothing worse happened other than me being so shaken up that I had to have chamomile tea instead of coffee.

Yesterday morning I was on my way to the office, driving up E80. After signaling and looking back to check there was no one in my lane I exited at Hilltop Drive. Out of nowhere I heard sirens blaring and looked into my rearview mirror to see either a police car or a highway patrol car coming up behind me hell for leather. In the next nanosecond a Nissan Sentra sped by me, just missing my right rear, then it flew in front of me, back to the freeway where it "landed" in front of a large truck and kept on driving. In hot pursuit the police car followed it, also just missing me as it followed the exact passage of the Sentra. I smelt rubber burning and wide-eyed looked at the chase until the overpass blocked my view and I was left stunned, wondering what had just happened. Who knows - nothing was on the internet or in the paper, just another high speed chase.

Thank you thank you thank you that nothing worse happened!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I  flew in to Oakland Airport one March from some place or other. A female cabdriver picked up a few of us who were going to Oakland and points north. It took me only a a few seconds after I climbed into the front seat to notice that everyone in the cab, driver included, were covered in tattoos and piercings. I felt quite bare and naked. The hardware decorated women in the backseat were going to a belly dance festival in Richmond. I worked in Richmond which I knew had many things, but belly dancing was not one of them! So I thought.

A few years later I began classes in what was advertised as "Middle Eastern Dancing for Women" a euphemism for belly dancing. In March the teacher told us about the festival in Richmond. On the Saturday of the festival I decided to go and see for myself what this was all about. I drove down Barrett Avenue and found parking near the Civic Center. To my amazement I saw hordes of people walking toward the Center clad in harem pants, swinging skirts, flimsy veils, sequined belts, mirrored bras, ankle bracelets, arms adorned with bangles and fingers with rings. I felt an odd sense of dislocation, the middle east here in Richmond. Myself, I wore black pants and a plain unadorned T-shirt. I felt plain, dull, and boring as I gazed open-mouthed at the explosion of femininity around me. A veritable estrogen feast. Women of every age, color, size, bellies, arms, breasts exposed. The jingle of ankle bracelets, the sound of drums, ouds, and zills, wafts of incense.  The fabulous souks of the middle east recreated in Richmond, of all places. Crowded hastily erected stalls displayed loads of silver jewelry, sequins, feathers, sheer gauzy clothing, colorful veils, embroidered coats from Kashmir, pottery from Morocco. Yards of glittery fabrics, rows of zills (finger cymbals), even the men wore the same clothes. I watched tribal dancing, soloists, dancers with boa constrictors around their arms. Dancers came from all over the world and all over America. There was Maha from Tokyo, a male dancer from Sweden, tribal dancers from Chico, dancers with canes, wings, balancing swords on their heads, music from the stalls, snippets of conversation (My intention was to....... - I was a vegan, now I eat meat again ........ there is this fabulous chiropractor ....... my tongue piercing got infected .....)

After  several years hiatus I went yesterday, and was delighted to find the same bedlam and jollity, despite the many revolutions and uprisings which have taken place over the last year. The same unity and joy. A delight to share this music and beauty in the midst of all that is wrong.