Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Sweet Bicicleta

Readers, I've gone all summer without posting a single word to this little piece of blog. My initial instinct was to apologize to all of you for my absence. But to be honest, I'm not really sorry; mostly because I've been off exploring the strength of my legs and the depth of my spirit with my brand new bicycle. Allow me to elaborate on this fabulous new development.

On June 16th (yes, precisely June 16th), while perusing a bike sale, I fell in love with an ORANGE bike. After some price bargaining, I rode it home and began to traverse the urban stage on a pair of wheels, not heels, wheeeeeeeels! I can hardly express my seemingly unbreakable happiness. The bike has  loads of swagger, it's equipped with an 8-speed internal hub gear-shifter (for those darn bay area hills), fenders, a rack, and a very cute Parisian basket. In fact, I can't always handle all that swagger; there have been times when I am riding mi bici (bike in Spanish) and I start to laugh and smile hysterically without real reason (to outsiders, I likely look borderline psychotic).  I ride it as much as I can; as a data geek, I've tracked my mileage, and in 2 months I've biked over 220 miles (and I'm only counting the big rides). Check out my chart!

I always feel the need to express my gratitude to the divine for the life I've been given. I come from very little means and right now I feel very fortunate to have my stylish and highly functional bike; it is truly the machine of my dreams. As I've noted previously, I love the process of styling myself; I love that internal dialogue that I have with my intuition, the result of which, I then choose to express outward. Most importantly, as a transportation lady, it's such a privilege to be able to express my style in my mode of transport. My bike is an outfit I intuitively selected one summer day that’s 100 times better than any outfit I currently have. All the while, I'm making an important statement: I can travel sustainabily and stylishly! Of all the things that I've been a consumer of, my stylish bike is the least I feel guilty about.

It helps that mi bici  has a tremendous utility in the context of my life. I don’t own a car and until recently, I was getting around by transit, ridesharing, walking, and in some cases, I just avoided going to places. I’m lucky that I live in a city with good transit.  Mi bici has certainly expanded my mobility in a way that is personally meaningful but also socially responsible. When I’m biking, I don’t hurt ANYBODY! I don’t produce GHG emissions and I am not driving a 3-ton vehicle that could kill you in a second of distraction. The max speed I can clock is 20 mph (on a hill), which would probably break a couple of bones if I ever accidentally run into someone. 

Nevertheless, there are some depressing realities that I’ve had to accept; for one thing, there’s a real possibility that a careless driver could kill me. But, then again, that’s a reality for everyone on the road. I’ve minimized that by choosing a very visible orange bike and administering caution while biking. On the less important scale, I've had to figure out how to avoid scratching my tights with the pedals and the best way to tuck my dress in order to avoid flashing folks.
If you haven’t guessed already, I am not the type of biker that wears Spandex. And while we're on the subject of biker types, I should note that I also don’t feel safe riding in mixed traffic.I need sharrows at a minimum (see pic below) as I ain't gonna ride in that jungle of cars in ma’ cute dress with no bike stencil in sight. My needs are not unusual; In fact, most people fall into this biker category. This brings me to another harsh reality: bike networks are still patchworks in most cities. Fortunately, my local bike network is fairly decent and I can usually cruise comfortably in a flower-print dress.

Like most people, I  typically go to the grocery store on the weekend. Yesterday, as I rode over to the Berkeley Bowl to engross myself with wonderful produce, I hummed along to my theme song (lately, it's "All right Now" ) and I felt incredibly beautiful and free. I was actually wearing a super cute dress and random people on the street complimented me. I didn't leave the house with that objective, but somehow, together, my bike and I looked beautiful. Now if only others could feel the joy of biking........ cities around the world, we have to do better! I leave you with a couple of pics of la bici and I.

PS. I’ll entertain your subconscious thought that I am being very florid and idealistic in calling my experience biking as “beautiful”; I am fundamentally a romantic and I embrace a romantic bike-riding version of me, even if in reality I sometimes get yelled at by angry drivers and I'm sweating bullets after a crazy hill. More on this romantic notion later...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Ode to Polka Dots

As I grow older, my collection of memories seems to play a much stronger role in how I continue to fine-tune the woman that I am. One of my fondest and most vivid memories is about the first time I saw one of my favorite women wearing polka dots. I was a fresh person in college and I was walking through campus carrying all of these books back to my dorm. I think I had just gotten my first major writing assignment; or perhaps, my memory fails me and I was really carrying just one huge chemistry book (because little do folks know, I was initially really interested in majoring in chemistry).

I remember feeling the cold northeastern fall for the first time ever while I waited to cross the street. The air upon my face was really thick, heavy and ominous; from a composite memory of all those cold nights I spent in New Haven, I can almost feel now how cold my nose felt that day. I was a girl from southern California finally getting a sense of how cold it could get, and it was only just October. I huddled and I stared on as I waited for the light to turn green.  On the other side of the street, there was a lady with a polka dot bag. In a super cheery disposition, she looked straight at me, smiled, and waved. I looked around behind me and there was no one there so she must have been waving at me. I thought to myself, okay, I know her, she’s waving at me, but the truth is…I had really no idea who she was. But she seemed so warm, so friendly, so Polka-dotted, that I smiled and waved back.  

A few years later I had the privilege of taking a class with Alicia Schmidt-Camacho, the lady with the polka-dot bag. Already I’m getting teary just thinking about her. Even though college was over five years ago, I am still digesting how this woman changed my life; and I know at least four other women who will feel exactly the same way when they read this. She is truly a phenomenal woman that wears her polka dots with a bright, warm smile. 

It’s amazing to look back and realize that Alicia knew who I was, before I even knew who she was. Such was the magnitude of her instant love for me (a girl from the hood, who had no idea what she had signed for when she decided to venture east). [Okay, the tears are out]. Without hesitation, she sent a smile full of whimsical polka dots at me, across the street, through the cold, through the vacant space between us, and made me feel soo warm for one brief moment in time. And even though it happened almost ten years ago, it’s a lifelong gift of a memory. 

I've noticed that whenever I wear or see polka dots, I get this warm fuzzy feeling of whimsical beauty. Perhaps...this really isn’t an ode to polka dots. Perhaps this is another one of my moments in which I realize how thankful I am to have such wonderful women guiding me in this lifelong transformation. Whatever this ode is about, I thank you dearly Alicia, for this sweet, beautiful memory of you and your polka dot bag.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Verde Verde, Que te Quiero Verde

I’ve written about color before, but the topic is so interesting that I wish to write more about it because today is Saint Patrick’s Day and GREEN is EVERYWHERE! In fact, last night, I went out to celebrate a recent milestone, and I thought about my outfit for days! I had to factor in SP day, the rain, the importance of my moment, and still leave my outfit flexible enough for the creative process that I love (the part when I actually put it on, and add/subtract accessories). Lucky for me, I have a beautiful pastel green dress. I dressed, I went, I was happy y tu sabes, vivi un poco!

But this morning I thought a little bit more about the symbolic nature of color and it’s relation to people. After all, color is infused into your gender before you are even born (pink for girls, blue for boys). And in the nascent stages of our nation, leaders spent a great deal of time debating the colors that would go on the flag. The decision has followed us since, and on the 4th of July when our national identity is celebrated,  the combo Red/White/Blue is everywhere!  But of course, we don’t wear red/white and blue. So why do we wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day? And why do people try to wear a certain color (white for example) during demonstrations? And why do we wear black to funerals?

I’d like to observe that I think this unification through color in some ways represents a motion for some greater collective action or consciousness; at least, just for one day or one gathering. Yes, we have the holiday that reminds us of a unique spatial/social/political moment, but there must be an act that comes along with it in order to unify ourselves with it. Nevertheless, there is dimension in this moment. For when I wore green last night, I felt I was having fun and celebrating; but when I was in NYC on Saint Patricks Day (a few years ago), the green in the parade definitely felt like it represented something else. There are plenty of others who have made this observation before; so I will not attempt to claim innovative thought here. I will however, encourage you all to find a green that works! It can be an extremely romantic and soft color. And with that I leave you with one of my favorite poems by Federico Garcia Lorca that begins with the color green…

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.
Rest of the poem is here:Verde Verde poem

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Khatia: La Pianista

Before the weekend concludes, and I get ready for an early morning hustle to the Daly City BART, I want to write about a woman in a beautiful black sparkling gown. Last Friday, I was blessed with the opportunity to experience the transcending power of Khatia Buniatishvili as she took her seat as the night’s concert pianist for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. 

It was quite a majestic and surreal experience during one of those winter nights in San Francisco when rain pounded the City and wind shuttered through the streets.  My friend and I were sheltered comfortably inside the Davis concert hall where we marveled at the sophisticated lighting that gave us the impression something beautiful was about to transpire.

Then suddenly, the stage door opened, the hall erupted in applause and the ethereal Khatia appeared before us. She stood tall, sensual and proud for one brief moment and then proceeded to walk across the stage toward the piano.  Her presence was mesmerizing and I clearly remember the way her hips moved; the way her smile seemed true; and the magnitude of her confidence and grace. Her excellence was complimented by a sparkling black halter dress, beautiful silver 6-inch heels and a silver shimmery necklace. As she walked, it seemed the stage lighting was perfectly positioned to illuminate her at every step.  Then, she sat down and became Goddess Devine showing us her talent, her emotion, and her power! Oh my goodness, que poder
In the process she floored us; we were all so floored by her power.

What I recall from this moment is that she wasn’t physically perfect by traditional standards. She had a little muffin top (no fantasy 6 pack), and a little jiggle in her arms. BUT she was perfect in my eyes because I fell in love at first sight; how could I not? Her talent was beaming, her aura commanded the entire hall, and as she played the piano she melted my heart. She played me what I was feeling and drummed up memories of feelings that have long been forgotten. I heard my feelings of love, loss, and hope; and I heard my memories of the highs, the hurts, and the dreams deferred. With one of hour of her music, Khatia gave me her woman in a black halter sparking dress.
This is Khatia.

This woman wore the dress; not the dress wore the woman.
This woman was before the woman wore the dress.

AND THAT is a fundamental of fashion; the power is the woman, the dress is just an accessory that made her shine.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


On a Sunday morning, I've decided to spend (not waste) a few minutes to declare my love for McQueen. His label is the only label I consistently keep up with because I don't think his products are exclusively about fashion. In fact, McQueen strikes me as much more insightful about life and the various routes that lead to ideas/products/conclusions. To me, his work represents the merging of three veins of process: philosophy, artistry, and femininity. Philosophy is a process based on rationality; artistry is founded on visual creativity; and femininity.... well its a deconstruction/reconstruction/abstraction/production of my gender. Of course, the last one is hard to define and I don't think I ever could give it a proper description as it spans lots of levels of process that are both internal and external to my body (i.e. politics, sex, social constructs etc.).   Regardless of their complexity, my point is that McQueen art is the trinity of these three processes and I am always comforted when there is verbal or visual confirmation of my thoughts. Recently I ran into a video that totally re-affirmed what I feel when I see McQueen. Here it is for your blogosphere consumption: Diving-For-Mcqueen

My favorite quotes from Sarah:
 "Tiny circles, small circles stitched all around; it's actually quite mathematical"
"A McQueen Woman, has to feel powerful, she's never a girly-girl...she's always A Woman"

And here are a few images of McQueen's work over the years.
A butterfly?

 Can I show up to work in this one day?

 Michelle looks awesome in a McQueen suit.

Although, the creator Alexander is gone, his work and his process definitely live on.
And there it is.A short-and-sweet entry.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

De Colores

I was recently privilidged with the opportunity to sit in a room full of Rothkos (Wikipedia-him). It was a small quaint room where I could sit quietly and let Rothko romantically seduce me to concepts about color. Yes, Rothko your green is complex, bluish, translucent, bottomless, seductive and ethereal; your pink is whimsical, powerful, open, infinitely spiral, sparkling and…oh my goodness was that my heart skipping a beat from all the jazzy hues? What can I say, color has an effect on me and that’s why I sighed and sat there with a smile for a few minutes. And then, when I was done ruminating through the other halls, I went back for one last moment of blissful colors before exiting the museum.

In the fashion world, color is a yo-yo concept that goes in and out of “style”; in the process, the concept  is edited, formatted, and narrated by the industry to be “re-invented” every few years as something new to try, complete with mixed messages. First, they tell you black is slimming and you should wear it to feel good about yourself. Simultaneously, they make you inherently afraid of color because it will make you feel the opposite: fat, unattractive and abnormally visible. And with that framework, they occasionally send you a message that this season “do not be afraid of color”. So if you DO wear it when they tell you to “embrace” it, you are bold, powerful and OMG, such a “fashionista”.

Well, I’m not afraid of it. I haven’t been ever since I started actually experimenting with styling myself. And I hope I never feel afraid of it; that I wear across the seasons, in all its various elements; and that it remains a tool in my arsenal of happiness. It’s not just me who feels this way. Color is a part of many cultures around the world and it was actually very prominent in pre-historic culture. Further, color is so common in the natural world that it’s even used to signal gender and sex by some animals including many species of birds. Of course, not everyone loves color, for not everyone has my reaction to Rothko. Check out this Youtube video of a Mad Men episode which hilariously portrays the opposite effects that Rothko has on people.

So, what I’m saying is, I personally love color in my style; but there’s people who naturally dislike it or interpret it differently. And that’s okay. But I just beg you to analyze why you don’t like it. Is it because they are telling you not to wear it to look skinny or that it’s out of “style”? If that’s your reason, I think you should go stare at Rothkos a bit and see if it changes your mind about the power of color.
I leave you with a song I used to sing as a kid…

De colores, De colores se visten los campos en la primavera
De colores, De colores son los pajarillos que vienen de afuera
De colores, De colores es el arco iris que vemos lucir

Y por eso los grandes amores
De muchos colores me gustan a mi
Y por eso los grandes amores
De muchos colores me gustan a mi

Saturday, July 2, 2011

La Religion Stylistically Codified.

So I had a dream recently. One night I was feeling a rush of panic about my future, the past and the overall effervescent nature of our lives. One minute there is absolute certainty; the world is clear and still like a lake on a windless summer day. The next minute there’s a bubble rising and you’re not really sure how big it’s going to get; whether it’s going to take you somewhere; or whether it’s just simply going to disappear. I started rubbing Budai’s belly (a Chinese representation of Buddha laughing) and slowly began to feel a comfort, small but distinct, that calmly and gently reduced me to a warm feeling of peace and hope.

Somehow I felt connected, both to myself and this religious representation of the “awakened one”. I began reading about what it means to “rub the Buddha’s belly”. It’s interesting that Budai actually doesn’t look like Buddha – Buddha fasted for almost 50 days and he probably would never look like that… anyway. So yes, I became obsessed with Buddha. [lately, that’s what I do with a lot of things; I’m in a state of discovery]. I did what any obsessed person would do with internet access: I ate up the Wikipedia article on everything Buddha-ist-ing-ed. Feeling “enlightened”, I rubbed his belly again… and I went to sleep.

This is where my dream began. I dreamed that I was a Buddhist monk of sorts, sitting with a group of monks eating vegetarian food. I was dressed in a robe looking calm and peaceful but interestingly, I was wearing earrings and my hair was still intact and its natural state (loose, wavy, and a little frizzy). I don’t remember much else from this dream. I woke up grudgingly, sleepy and not ready to go to work for an early shift in data collection.

As I later reflected on my dream, I felt myself relieved that even though I was dreaming and deep in the subconscious of my brain, I could see who I was. In case you don’t know, as a Buddhist monk you have to give up identity (in some way). Thus, it was interesting that in my dream I could recognize myself. I had indeed transformed into something I will likely never be and have never really strived to be. I mean I know what Buddhism is, and indeed I have tried to meditate, but the fact that I held on to my hair and my earrings is very symbolic of the things I do not want to give up. We all wonder who we really are, and there are several age “crisis” that are permanent fixtures in our everyday chats about life: “Teenage years”, “Quarter-life Crisis”, “Mid-life Crisis” and of course the timeless “finding myself” condition. But maybe at some point, we know some fundamentals, even if a sudden life change alters your surroundings.

So I kept my earrings and hair, but I was still wearing a robe, and I was eating tofu, walking through a garden, away from civilization, high above the mountains. What I was wearing in the dream, led me to some reflections on religious coding.

It’s interesting that even though Buddhist strive for the simplest clothing, the cleanest hair-do (bald), and the simplest of shoes, if you saw one walking on the street, you would know their identity and what they represent in our codified world of social identities. They are religious subjects of the Buddhist religion. Similarly a nun, who again strives for the simplest of clothes, and the most basic of colors, is easily identified as a religious devotee in the Christian faith. To be absolutely clear, I am not saying that the world that they represent is simple. On the contrary, it is supremely complex, full of mind-blowing juxtapositions, and out-of-body experiences that I can’t even begin to understand or presume to know.  But how they dress is a signal to us and a transformation to them. Their robes allow them to fully be who they are and want to be. At the same time, it’s a signal to us, to allow them to be who they want to be. Of course, this is not always respected and ignorance unfortunately breaches the code of religious style.

This simple code does not necessarily apply to the rest of us, who are a little bit of this and a little bit of that. This is fortunate for some, but unfortunate for others. It’s a FORTUNATE condition [at least for me it is] because it means that you can experiment, you can change, and you can codify and re-program. Yes, we all wear our suits during work time, but I hope most people go home and change. Last night, I was talking to someone in finance, and I would have never guessed that this was his trade. And I came home happy that humanity existed, even in the most unlikely places of the world [to me finance seems sooo…. ^/^ well you know]. It is an UNFORTUNATE condition because it just makes life very complicated. You don’t really know who someone is, or represents based on the robes that they are wearing. I came home and put on my infinity shirt and went to bed. I am an engineer, and I’m not scared of numbers, or the idea of infinity. I embrace infinity, divinity, continuity… haha getting really close to the axis but never getting there!! Of course, there’s a lot more to who I am. Right now I’m writing.